Orakzai goes red. Red agencies/ districts are controlled by the Taliban; purple districts areunder de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.
The Pakistani government has negotiated yet another peace agreement with the Taliban in the tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan. The latest agreement was signed in the Orakzai tribal agency, Geo TVreported.
The agreement mirrors other peace deals that have been signed in the tribal areas and in several settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Taliban agreed it would not shelter “terrorist, criminal or foreign elements” or create a parallel administration. The Taliban also said it would recognize the writ of the government and end “the illegal occupation” of government buildings and schools.
Information on the Taliban leadership in Orakzai is sparse. In November 2001, Dawn interviewed Akhunzada Aslam Farooqui, who was described as the “patron-in-chief” of the Taliban in the agency and a “close friend of Mullah Mohammad Omar.”
Farooqui promised 12,000 tribesmen to battle US forces in Afghanistan and offered support such as sanctuary and weapons and ammunition. He claimed to lead 7,000 Taliban fighters.
The Taliban have run a parallel administration in Orakzai, with security forces patrolling and sharia courts meting out justice. The Orakzai Taliban conducted a public execution of six “criminals” in June after a sharia court determined they were guilty of kidnapping.
In May, a joint Taliban and tribal jirga, or council, ordered all non-governmental organizations to leave the agency and banned girls’ schools. “The jirga also decided to burn down the houses of the local residents who cooperate with the NGOs and help in girls’ education,” a Pakistani journalist told BBC Urdu.
Several of the local tribes attempted to organize against the Taliban in January. But the Taliban waged a vicious campaign against the tribes and they ultimately relented after the government failed to assist the tribes.
The Kurram tribal agency and the districts of Hangu and Kohat border Orakzai tot he south and west, while Khyber, Peshawar and Nowshera border it to the north and east.
The Pakistani military recently conducted a ten day operation in Khyber after Taliban threats to Peshawar became all too obvious to ignore. The government cut a peace agreement with the extremist groups in Khyber after conducting a show of force operation.
The military is currently conducting an operation against the Taliban in Hangu. Some of the Taliban fighters are said to be moving from Hangu into Orakzai as fighting is underway along the border of the two administrative units.
Kurram is the scene of intense sectarian fighting between Sunni extremist groups and Shia living in the region.
The Pakistani military and the Taliban have fought intense battles in Orakzai and neighboring Kohat this year. Pitched battles were fought in the city of Darra Adam Khel and at the Kohat tunnel in January.
The fighting began after Taliban forces hijacked a military convoy in Darra Adam Khel and seized weapons destined for a military operation in South Waziristan in late January. Clashes ensued as the Pakistani military moved forces into the region to battle the Taliban, but the military backed down and quickly formed a “peace jirga” to negotiate with the Taliban.
The Taliban responded by taking control of the strategic Kohat Tunnel, a vital link on the Indus Highway that connects Peshawar to the southern tribal agencies and settled districts. The Taliban kidnapped more than 50 paramilitary troops from the Frontier Corps during the fighting at the Kohat Tunnel. Several soldiers and paramilitaries were beheaded and mutilated. The government retook the Kohat Tunnel after days of fierce fighting, but not before the Taliban damaged the tunnel during an attempt to destroy it.
On May 1, the Pakistani military pulled out from Darra Adam Khel. The Taliban immediately re-emerged and began levying taxes on vehicles traveling on the Indus Highway. The Pakistani Army, backed by tanks, rolled back into Darra Adam Khel on May 11, and fighting ensued. The fighting shut down the Indus Highway.
Orakzai is the sixth of seven tribal agency agencies where the government has negotiated peace agreements with the Taliban. The western border region with Afghanistan is now virtually under Taliban control. While the Pakistani military operates outposts along the border and maintains garrisons in some agencies, the Taliban are free to establish and maintain their shadow governments and surge forces into Afghanistan.
The security situation in northwestern Pakistan and in Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated since the government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, and Khyber.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.