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Make No Deal With Terrorists

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The current situation has proved that deals made by the government of Pakistan with terrorists and Taliban in tribal areas have strengthened the position of terrorists. The rulers at that time provided a chance for them to make their position stronger. Now the situation has changed altogether as the terrorists announced breaking of the deal. They have started attacks on government forces.

According to a newspaper report, Taliban militants in North Waziristan Agency announced that they were pulling out of a peace deal they signed with the government last year.

“We are ending the agreement today,” the Taliban shura or council stated in pamphlets distributed in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan. “We had struck the truce with the government to save people’s lives and property, but today we announce the truce’s termination again for the sake of the people.”

The Taliban said the government had repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement. Security forces had attacked the Taliban in Dwatoi, Saidgai, Paryat and Godai Waila. The government had also backtracked on its promise to compensate tribesmen and solve their problems with check-posts, the Taliban statement said. “So we are left with no option but to end the truce.” The Taliban warned Khasadar and levies personnel not to perform official duties with army and paramilitary troops, otherwise they would also be attacked.

The Taliban also announced amnesty for pro-government tribal elders, but warned that they should not conduct any jirgas with the government. Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told a private channel that it was the Taliban who violated the agreement. “They violated the truce by challenging the government’s writ and attacking government installations, the army and innocent people,” the interior minister said. He said the government would maintain its writ at all cost and would deal strictly with those taking the law into their own hands.

Situation in other parts of the country is also critical. Newspapers have been writing editorials on the situation. One of the newspaper stated that two attacks in two days have put the government on notice about the backlash to the Lal Masjid operation.

At least 12 security men were killed and over 20 wounded in a suicide attack against a convoy of the Frontier Force and army troops in Swat on Sunday July 15. At least 24 paramilitary troops died and 27 others injured when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into their convoy on Saturday July 14 in one of the deadliest attacks on the security forces in North Waziristan this year. Army troops also came under attack in Bannu and Dir districts in which a paramilitary soldier was killed by masked gunmen on the Miranshah-Bannu road.

Suicide-bombing has gone up another notch. It is now the explosives-packed car which is being used, an Al Qaeda trade mark known in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, there would have been more casualties if the Peshawar police had not discovered two anti-tank mines weighing 4-5 kilograms hooked up to a timer in a car abandoned in front of a bank in the East Cantonment police precincts. A Frontier Constabulary soldier was killed and three others injured in an ambush in a precinct of Quetta by unknown assailants the same day.

The president of the Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) and chief of the Jama’at-e Islami, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, says he will submit his resignation in the next session of the National Assembly to protest the “massacre” of Lal Masjid, thus putting the dominant component of the alliance, the JUI, under pressure. He has also objected to the mobilisation of troops in the Malakand-Swat-Dir area without a formal “go-ahead” from the MMA government in Peshawar. His man in the NWFP cabinet, “senior minister” Mr Sirajul Haq, convened a press conference to go on record against the mobilisation which he said was done without taking the Peshawar government into confidence. The NWFP chief minister, Mr Akram Khan Durrani, might also speak later as he has been accusing the “intelligence agencies” of causing terrorist incidents in the province.

After the all-parties conference of the opposition in London announced the formation of a movement called APCDM, all the opposition parties, except the PPP for the time being, are formally committed to starting an agitation, the only caveat being that there is still no agreement among the big parties, the PPP and the JUI, on when to resign from the assemblies and come out on the roads. This means that Qazi Hussain Ahmad’s “resignation” is clearly aimed at triggering the movement now when the iron is hot in the post-Lal Masjid period. In his reckoning, a crucial ingredient in the agitation would be the madrassa zealots of the Deobandi federation of seminaries called Wafaqul Madaris Arabiya. Its students are already on the roads protesting the “betrayal” of the pledges made by the government to Wafaq over the Lal Masjid standoff. This connection is critical.

It is critical because the government is also planning to woo the Wafaq most vigorously in the coming days. It knows that Wafaq is fundamentally opposed to the Musharraf government but it is also aware of the giant steps it has been able to take under Musharraf to increase its presence in the country. The government may therefore focus on this preoccupation of Wafaq to offer it the blandishment of more property in Islamabad, either that abandoned by the Lal Masjid clerics or new “alternative allotment”. The Wafaq has already laid claim to most of the property under the Lal Masjid complex. Its strength is that it can mobilise mass protest from Peshawar to Karachi at will.

In this context, the challenge from Waziristan will inevitably form the most effective plank of the “agitation” in the offing. Included in this is the Taliban warlord, Baitullah Mehsud, of South Waziristan whose alignment with Al Qaeda is well known. Writes a former chief secretary of the NWFP: “It is widely believed that the killing of the Peshawar police chief along with fourteen other police officers was the work of an Uzbek suicide bomber who came from Baitullah’s group and had links with an Egyptian Arab, Abu Nasir, who leads the Uzbeks in South Waziristan”. Thus it is quite clear that Qazi Hussain Ahmad is trying to put Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the back foot in regard to Waziristan.

It is the JUI which politically dominates in Waziristan. Since the government is reluctant to extend the Political Parties Act to the tribal areas, the JUI is the only party allowed to operate, winning almost all the “non-Party” legislative seats from Waziristan. Any radicalisation on the ground will put Fazlur Rehman on the defensive and might ultimately force him to accept the stewardship of Qazi Hussain Ahmad whose own party has its chain of madrassas, including scores in Islamabad itself. The political parties may then respond in a variety of ways. The PMLN will support and be a happy kibitzer; the PPP will stay away. The MQM, once again called upon to act, will be in a tight spot to decide. The ruling PMLQ will face its toughest challenge yet, because it is vulnerable to the appeal of the cleric. Bad days lie ahead.

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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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