Islamabad’s Waziristan peace deal: appeasement of “Taliban”?

In its Sept. 6 account based on its reading of a direct translation, Newsday portrays the Pakistani government’s new peace pact with tribal insurgents in Waziristan, in the autonomous Federally Administrated Tribal Areas along the Afghan border, as appeasement of Islamist militants. Which maybe it is. But this is further evidence of how Bush has painted both the US and Pakistan into a corner: the rise of the fundamntalists (which Newsday’s text sloppily refers to as the “Taliban,” meaning that they share the Afghan Taliban’s ideology) to power in Waziristan is a result of US-mandated militarization of the region. A real crackdown could result in Gen. Musharraf’s overthrow—and a Taliban-type regime coming to power in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Pact reached between Pakistan, pro-Taliban forces

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Pakistani government signed a peace accord with Islamic militant rebels yesterday that leaves the militants — who call themselves Taliban and are closely allied with the Afghan Taliban movement — in effective control of most of the border region of Waziristan.

The deal, signed with Taliban based in North Waziristan, ended a 30-month-long military campaign that failed to secure control over the most isolated and ungoverned regions on Pakistan’s long border with Afghanistan. A similar truce was signed with militants in South Waziristan in February 2005.

Each deal is designed to give the government a face-saving exit from its offensive, which shattered villages and alienated residents, pushing them into the arms of the Taliban, say observers from the region, including South Waziristan journalist Sailab Mahsude.

The new agreement, obtained and translated by Newsday, declares formally that the North Waziristan militants will end attacks both on government targets here in Pakistan and across the border against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. But the real meaning is the opposite, tribal officials from the region said.

The accord asserts that “there will be no cross-border traffic for military activities,” but contains the loophole that “for traffic … for trade, business and family visits, there will be no restriction, according to the customs and traditions” of the border area. In practice, the ethnic Pashtun tribes on both sides of the border cross with little attention paid by Pakistani border guards, who traditionally are members of those same tribes.

Under the deal, Pakistan agreed that tribal paramilitary forces, rather than army troops, will handle border control duties, as they did before the recent army offensive. The poorly trained, underpaid paramilitaries have proved no barrier to Taliban infiltration past the border, U.S. troops say.

The South Waziristan peace deal has left the Taliban running a parallel government that has largely displaced Pakistan’s administration. The militants there openly recruit, train and send men to fight over the borders against the Americans.

In recent talks, Pakistan’s government refused a Taliban demand for acknowledged right to pursue jihad against the non-Muslim forces in Afghanistan. But the government has secretly left open the door to continued infiltration, an official involved in the talks said. Pakistani officials have denied any secret deals.

To clear up Newsday’s sloppy oversimplifications: the “Taliban” which rules Waziristan is actually the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which came to power on an anti-US platform in the October 2002 general elections, and immediately started imposing a harsh Taliban-style interpretation of shariah. Its influence has spread, and grown harsher, as Pakistan, at US behest, has undertaken military operations in the region to flush out supposed militants form al-Qaeda and the real Taliban. (UK Telegraph, April 3, 2006) This is a dialectic which have noted for some time.

See our last posts on Waziristan and Pakistan.