The war on terrorism launched by President Bush, in which Pakistan is a frontline state, has suffered a big setback as members of the peace committee – who had brokered a peace accord with the Taliban – resigned from the committee. Their reason for resigning: they were never consulted in carrying out operations against the Taliban and terrorists.
This new development will certainly increase terrorism in the tribal areas situated on the Pakista-Afghani border. The latest development in the North Waziristan Agency proved that signing a deal with the Taliban was a bad decision. The peace deal actually strengthened the hands of terrorists. They gained time to cement their positions. The majority of tribesmen realize that elimination of the Taliban and terrorists is the only way to avoid further destruction.
There can be no denying that the government of Pakistan has always ignored sincere sentiments of its most concerned citizens. There is no doubt that terrorists and Taliban support for terrorism is criminal. Who in his right mind would strike a deal with criminals? The people demand that instead of signing deals with terrorists, the government should take action against them. Innocent people must be protected not only from the terrorist actions, but from suffering the kind of collateral damage that has been their fate in past counterterrorism efforts.
This week, a committee of tribal elders set up to oversee a controversial peace deal with militants has resigned after four people died in an army operation, elders said.
Officials said on Tuesday that troops backed by helicopter gunships had stormed a suspected Al Qaeda training camp in North Waziristan, killing four foreign insurgents. Tribal leaders said the dead were local people and declared that the committee would no longer cooperate with the government in its campaign against militants in the lawless region. Twelve members of the so-called “peace committee” met with the local administration chief and told him they were quitting, while three others (consulted by telephone) resigned later, elder Malik Enayat Khan told AFP.
“They killed our youths including two teenage boys and they launched the raid without informing us,” another tribal elder said on condition of anonymity. Security officials also confirmed the resignations. Authorities signed a pact with tribesmen and militants in North Waziristan in September 2006, under which the rebels agreed to stop cross-border attacks and the tribes said they would expel insurgents. The accord said that the committee would be given advance notice of military operations, in order to avoid civilian deaths. The military has said that it launched Tuesday’s raid after a delegation of elders was flown to the area by helicopter for negotiations, but the “terrorists” refused to meet them, then opened fire. The elders tell a conflicting version of these events: that local people had agreed to a peaceful search operation but that the troops had then opened fire. Malik Nasrullah Khan, chief of North Waziristan, and former senator Haji Mateen Shah said they had informed the political agent about their decision.
According to a newspaper report, President Gen Pervez Musharraf is studying a proposal from the NWFP to restore the “pre-independence arrangement” for South and North Waziristan, but has rejected the idea of restoring the commissioner’s office.
“The idea of going back to the pre-independence arrangement – the Resident Office– for the two Waziristans is under consideration by Gen Musharraf, but no decision in principle has so far been reached,” said a source.
The British created the Resident Office following a major policy review for North and South Waziristan in 1921. The political agent of either of the two Waziristans did not need to go to the governor in Peshawar for any decision and instead visited the resident in Dera Ismail Khan.
Former NWFP chief secretary Khalid Aziz said the Resident Officer was so powerful that the military was placed under his control and the governor would take his recommendations seriously for any policy decision on Waziristan.
“I think if we go back to the Resident Office it will help the government find a sustainable solution to the Waziristan crisis,” he said. More than 700 soldiers have been killed in military operations against foreign and local militants in the two Waziristan since 2003.
The same source said the Resident idea was flouted following the president’s refusal to restore the commissioner’s office as a regional coordinator to tackle the Taliban problem.
“Gen Musharraf feels returning to the commissioner would be like restoring the past local government system in which the commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan was also in charge of North and South Waziristan and the political agent did not need to go to Peshawar in any emergency situation, instead he would approach the commissioner in nearby Dera city.
“The commissioner acted like the regional coordinator and that office is missing in the new local government system. That is why quick decisions are difficult to make and the security environment deteriorates meanwhile,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government has been advised by senior officials to mobilise the public against the spreading Taliban influence in settled districts close to Waziristan.
“Use of force is no solution to the problem,” the source said. “We need public mobilization against these people who want to enforce their views through intimidation or use of force.”