Over 50 wounded in attack where ousted Chief Justice was scheduled to speak; government still negotiation with Taliban in North Waziristan
The suicide attacks that have plagued the Northwest Frontier Province have shifted to the heart of Pakistan in the capital of Islamabad. A suicide bomber on a motorcycle pulled into a crowd at the Islamabad Court and detonated, killing 13 and wounding over 50, the Pak Tribune reported. The explosion occurred less than 50 meters from a stage set up by the Pakistan People’s Party, which is led by Benazir Bhutto. The crowd had gathered to hear a speech by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was suspended by President Pervez Musharraf on March 9 for misconduct. Chaudhry was not present when the suicide attack took place, but visited the carnage afterwards.
Islamabad and the Northwest Frontier Province were hit with multiple coordinated suicide attacks of the winter and spring of 2007 after a Taliban training facility was struck in Saidgai in North Waziristan. The attacks, which were led by South Waziristan Taliban commander Abdullah Meshud, abated and the Pakistani government made no arrests. Despite efforts in the Pakistani government to dissociated the latest suicide campaign with the government assault on the Taliban-supporting Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad, it is clear the Taliban are retaliating.
The attack in Islamabad followed a weekend of Taliban suicide attacks against Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan, Swat and Dera Ismail Khan, which led to the death 78 troops and civilians. Today, a suicide bomber attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in Mir Ali in North Waziristan, killing one soldier and seriously wounding four.
The Pakistani government is planning on recruiting an additional 15,000 members of the security forces in the troubled Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). Currently local police will not show up for work in North Waziristan due to threats from the Taliban.
The Pakistani government, led by NWFP Governor Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, is negotiating to restore the Waziristan Accord, which the Taliban terminated July 15. Aurakzai maintains the past agreement was signed with tribal elders and not the local Taliban, and he is again negotiating with the tribal leaders. “The governor said the peace deal was not struck with the `local Taliban’,” Dawn reported. “Instead, it was signed with the tribal elders and only they can scrap it. The participants asked the governor to contact the elders for defusing the situation.”
Aurakzai is not telling the truth. It is now well known the Waziristan Accord was negotiated with the Taliban. The Long War Journal reported this on the day the peace deal was signed. Senior Taliban commanders were present at the signing of the Waziristan Accord in September. The Pakistani press and government officials repeatedly referred to Taliban commanders and the Taliban Shura, or consultive council, and its involvement in the peace treaty.
The government later signed peace agreements with Faqir Mohammed in Bajaur and Maulana Qazi Fazlullah in Swat, two leaders of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law). The TNSM has direct links with al Qaeda and supported the radical clerics of the Lal Masjid.
Despite the rise of the Taliban along the western borders, the consolidation of al Qaeda camps in the region and the repeated suicide strikes against government forces and political parties in both the hinterlands and the capital, President Musharraf still appears willing to cut a deal with the Taliban. While this may buy him time, it will embolden his enemies.