Baitullah Mehsud from a recent Taliban video.
Just two days after signing a peace agreement with the Taliban in the northern region of the Northwest Frontier Province, the Pakistani government is negotiating with the Taliban in Waziristan, the heart of al Qaeda country.
The Pakistani government is currently in negotiations with Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, an umbrella group that united local Taliban groups in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Baitullah is behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party.
The provincial government, run by the newly elected Awami National Party, is looking to strike its second major peace agreement with the Taliban this week. “We are moving on all fronts and making progress,” Owais Ghani, the Governor of the Northwest Frontier Province said after confirming negotiations were underway. On April 21, the provincial government signed a peace accord with the outlawed Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi (the TNSM, or the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) in the Malakand Division.
The provincial government is working on a 15-point peace agreement, Dawn revealed. In the latest draft of the peace agreement, the Taliban cannot sanction terrorist from operating on its territory and must eject foreigner terrorists from its midst. The Taliban cannot attack government or military personnel and must give freedom of movement to aid workers. The Taliban is also prevented from establishing a parallel political administration.
The government would free Taliban prisoners and withdraw the Army from the region. Disputes would be resolved by the local political administration, and the government has the right to take action if the Taliban violates the agreement.
Baitullah Mehsud orders a cease-fire
The negotiations appear to be progressing as Baitullah has ordered a cease-fire. Pamphlets were distributed ordering his followers to halt attacks in Waziristan, Tank, Gomal, and Dera Ismail Khan. “The pamphlets read that the Taliban should stop provocative activities against the government in an effort to bring peace,” the Daily Times reported.
Baitullah threatened to ruthlessly enforce his edict. “Those failing to abide by the orders will be hanged upside down in bazaars,” the pamphlet stated.
Draft peace agreement is similar to 2006 Waziristan Accord
The latest peace agreement reads much like the failed 2006 Waziristan Accord, an agreement hailed as the solution to militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The 2006 South Waziristan Accord required the Taliban to eject foreign terrorists and deny them sanctuary and to halt attacks against the government and military. The Taliban were also prevented from establishing a parallel government.
But the Taliban established the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan and subsequently violated each of the Accord’s conditions. The Taliban immediately began assassinating their rivals under the guise of calling them “US spies.” The Taliban established a parallel government complete with sharia courts, taxation, recruiting offices, and its own police forces. The Taliban attacked government forces and captured entire units. Within one year, the Taliban and the government were fighting pitched battles.
The Taliban expanded its power base into Tank and Dera Ismail Khan and threatened Peshawar. Al Qaeda remained in the region and built 29 training cams in North and South Waziristan. Numerous terror plots against the West were traced back to camps in Waziristan.
A summary of the draft peace agreement, according to Dawn
• The Taliban will expel “foreign militants” within one month
• The Taliban will ensure that terrorist activities will not occur inside Pakistan
• The Taliban will not allow their lands to be used for anti-state activities
• The Taliban will not target the government or security forces
• The Taliban will not damage equipment or property belonging to the government and the military
• The Taliban will not kidnap military or government officials
• The Taliban will not attack foreign or local workers participating in aid projects
• The Frontier Corps will maintain access to roadways
• The Taliban will not create a shadow government or institutions
• The Taliban will not interfere with development and humanitarian projects
• The political administration will verify any violations of the agreement
• Problems will be resolved through the local political administration
• The government maintains the right to act if the agreement is violated
• Both sides will exchange hostages and prisoners after the agreement is signed
• The Pakistani Army will be withdrawn from the region.
See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information on the rise of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and the peace agreements signed between the government and the Taliban.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.