Pakistan’s Interior Minister orders negotiations with Baitullah Mehsud

The Pakistani government and the Taliban appear close to signing the next round of “peace” accords to end the fighting in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. Pakistan’s Interior Minister stated a deal can be made with Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, while Baitullah announces a cease-fire in northwestern Pakistan.

Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz has ordered the formation of a peace jirga, or committee, in order to conduct official talks with the Taliban and Baitullah. “The government, in collaboration with a jirga consisting of influential and local people from the Fata and the Frontier regions, would soon take measures for sustainable peace in the tribal areas,” said Nawaz.

Nawaz claimed the government was operating from a position of strength due to military operations. “The demand of initiating a peace process was made by the Mehsuds, who are on the run after being crushed by the security forces in Waziristan,” Nawaz said. “[Baitullah] Mehsud has no choice but to agree on the peace deal. It’s a matter of his survival.”

The prospect of peace negotiations became clear after the government halted military operations in South Waziristan on Feb. 2. The military has released 12 “tribal members” detained during military operations and are planning on releasing more. The Taliban in turn will release four captured paramilitary troops from the Frontier Corps.

Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the newly formed umbrella Taliban organization, has declared a unilateral cease-fire. He took credit for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and has led a suicide compaign and insurgency against the Pakistani government.

“We have announced ceasefire for an indefinite period because the government stopped attacking us,” Maulvi Omar, Baitullah’s spokesman told AFP. “Baitullah Mehsud has ordered his people to stop attacks against Pakistani forces from Waziristan to Swat and other areas of Pakistan. It is not a formal agreement with the government forces but we have done it voluntarily.”

The news of the cease-fire and the formation of a tribal jirga come as a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in South Waziristan. Eight were killed in the crash, including Major General Javed Sultan, the commanding officer of operations in the tribal regions. Two brigadiers, a lieutenant colonel, and three captains were also killed in the crash.

The Pakistani military claimed the crash was not due to Taliban fire, but due to a maintenance issue. It is unclear if the helicopter has even been recovered to conduct an investigation of the cause of the crash.

There is suspicion the helicopter may have been shot down. “Indian security officials tracking developments inside Pakistan said they were inclined to think that the helicopter had been shot down,” The Times of India reported.

While there have been no public reports of Pakistani helicopters being shot down, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that the Taliban shot down several helicopters down during heavy fighting in North Waziristan last fall. The downing of the attack helicopters forced the military to rely on less accurate airstrikes, such as the bombing that destroyed the historical mosque of the Faqir of Ippi. The destruction of this landmark helped unite disparate elements of the Taliban and contributed to the formation of Baitullah’s Taliban movement.

See The Fall of the Northwest Frontier Province for the full history of the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal regions and beyond.

Please support The Long War Journal’s upcoming embeds and multimedia projects by donating today. Click here to read more.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Jimbo says:

    They will never learn…we are going to get struck here in the US because the Pakistanis won’t confront these people.

  • Edward says:

    Somehow I doubt that the hierarchy on that end cares…

  • The word of terrorist is more truthful than the government. If government accuses him of killing Bhutto, how come they so quickly have this cease fire.
    Ofcourse the ameircan media will say AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN BORDER for this event also instead of telling the truth.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 02/07/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • an al zama says:

    A surprising move, they seemed to be making some headway in Waziristan, but unfortunately this deal is not the whole story. The GoP is also going soft in the swat valley and is unfirtunately quiet about the build up of forces around Peshawar.

  • naveedafridi says:

    The Musharaf Govt seems to fight these people half heartedly. I think this is mainly his old ties with militia that he used against the Indians in Kashmir.

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    Seems we been down this road before. I think it would be a good idea to tie US aid to p-stans progress against t-ban/AQ. The US got fleeced for over $10 BILLION already, are we going on the same merry go-round again? All that aside, it will come down to the US/UK crossing the border in small teams to recon, acquire targets, or using larger forces to chopper in and raid them where they sleep. Why do we let nearly 30 camps operate in W-stan? Why do the p-stanis? They should be taken out. Its getting ridiculous, these people are NOT honorable. You get better results with a hammer than a pen with these psychotics.

  • Marlin says:

    This interesting article makes it seem that the Pakistani Army is working separately from the Pakistani Government and having some success. The question is whether the Government can successfully leverage this success into a long-term advantage. Given their past performance, I don’t believe they can.

    The government has imposed a debilitating economic blockade on the Mehsud tribe and very little is coming out of the embattled zone in terms of information.
    It has caused the displacement of a large number of Mehsud tribesmen, including women and children, who had to walk on foot for miles to reach the relative safety of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.
    To ensure unity of command, the political administration has deliberately been kept outside the loop.
    Those familiar with the military’s operational strategy to “box in”

  • Edward says:

    Interesting article, Merlin. Mildly encouraging if true… but it reminds me of StrategyPage, which may have a more positive outlook on this stuff (and on China supposedly) than we see here.


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