NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts openly controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat. Click map to view.
Negotiations are underway with the Taliban as the government said it will increase forces in the Northwest Frontier Province
The situation in Pakistan’s volatile Northwest Frontier Province is coming to a head. After a weekend of suicide bombings targeting government security forces in North Waziristan, Swat and Dera Ismail Khan that killed over 70 Pakistani troops, the Taliban has decided to call off the Waziristan Accord. This “peace agreement” between the government and the Taliban has contributed to the Talibanization of large swaths of the Northwest Frontier Province. The Taliban repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement, but the Pakistani government is still working to keep it alive.
Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakazi, the governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, is actively negotiating with the Taliban in North Waziristan in an effort to revive the accord. “We are trying to engage them in a bid to keep the accord intact,” Aurakazi told Geo News. Aurakazi claimed the Taliban acted in haste to dissolve the agreement, while they “have complaints about establishment of new checkposts and delay in payment of compensation.” The government is working to speed up payments to the Taliban, and that “Rs 130 million [$2.2 million] out of total 310 million [$5.1 million] amount has been distributed among local Taliban as financial
The Waziristan Accord demanded that the Taliban refrain from setting up camps in the tribal agency and setting up a parallel government, eject foreign fighters from the region, and stop cross border attacks into Afghanistan. In exchange, the Pakistani government would pay reparations to the Taliban, return their weapons, refrain from attacking the Taliban, and pull its troops back from the region.
In canceling the Waziristan Accord, the Taliban have threatened the tribes and their members if they worked or negotiated with the government. “The Taliban warned Khasadar and levies personnel not to perform official duties with army and paramilitary troops, otherwise they would also be attacked,” the Daily Times reported. “The Taliban also announced amnesty for pro-government tribal elders, but warned that they should not conduct any jirgas with the government.”
The Pakistani military has sent an additional brigade of troops to Tank, while patrols have been stepped up in Swat and Battagram. Today, President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz conducted a “high-level meeting” to discuss the security situation in the Northwest Frontier Province. Musharraf and Aziz “decided to deploy additional forces in NWFP and tribal areas” to stem the Talibanization of the region.
President Musharraf’s next move in the Northwest Frontier Province may decide the fate of his government. There is intense political pressure over his dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. This has united the opposition against Musharraf. The Islamist political parties have attacked the government over the assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad, and only a few ministers have defended the government’s actions while the rest have been silent. The Taliban-supporting Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal political party has called for a trial over the Lal Masjid “massacre.”
The military has yet to deploy in the red zones of Bajaur and North and South Waziristan, where the Taliban is strongest. The military appears to be working to contain the threat at the moment.
When the military launched operations in Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, the Taliban and al Qaeda bloodied the nose of the Pakistani military, While the military claimed it lost 700 troops in the attacks, American military and intelligence sources have informed The Fourth Rail the number of killed is closer to 3,000. The Taliban and al Qaeda are far stronger today than in 2005. Musharraf is weakened politically and there are very real questions about the will of the military and intelligence communities to fight their countrymen.