Position of weakness
As political leaders in Islamabad celebrate a consensus decision to speak to the Taliban and give peace a chance, the people who have suffered at the hands of militancy in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA are wary.
On May 16, 2016 At 4:30
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As the government watched, the Taliban slaughtered more than 600 tribal elders loyal to the stateUnder the agreement, Taliban agreed to stop supporting foreign militants and register those staying in South Waziristan. They were to cease attacks on government installations and personnel, and stop cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. In return, the government agreed to release Taliban prisoners, pay compensation for the property damaged during the military operation, and provide funds to militants to repay their debts to Al Qaeda. But Nek Mohammed refused to surrender the foreign militants. Analysts say he never intended to do that in the first place. The deal broke down and Nek Muhammad was killed in a US drone strike in June 2004. Sararogha Peace Agreement (February 2005) In February 2005, the government signed a peace agreement with Baitullah Mehsud in Sararogha, South Waziristan. The deal specified that the government would not target Baitullah and his supporters and would compensate the militants for the homes razed or damaged during military operations. The Taliban agreed to stop attacking Pakistani installations and personnel and to stop sheltering foreign militants. The Mehsud militants didn't have to lay down weapons or surrender foreign militants. The North Waziristan Peace Agreement (September 2006) The historic 16-clause North Waziristan Peace Accord was announced on 5th September 2006. The basic clauses of the agreement were almost the same as that of the Sararogha deal. The Taliban agreed not to attack government installations and stop all target killings, and to return all government property. They were not allowed to run a parallel administration, and all local disputes were to be resolved in line with the Frontier Crimes Regulation. They agreed not to cross the Afghan border for militant activity, or to intrude into the adjoining districts. All foreigners were to leave Pakistan, and those unable to do so would remain peaceful. The government agreed to release the Taliban that they had arrested, and promised not to re-arrest them for past violations. It also agreed to remove all checkposts in the area, and return the vehicles and equipment seized from the Taliban during military operations. The two agreements stayed intact for a while but failed to bring down violence in the country. They were officially broken off in August 2007, when the Taliban began to target the military in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid operation in July. Swat Peace Agreement (May 2008) Around the same time in 2007, Sufi Muhammad's fringe movement for the implementation of Sharia in Swat took a violent turn. Most of this violence was orchestrated by his son in law, Taliban commander Mullah Fazlullah.
On May 21, 2008, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government reached a 16-point peace agreement with the Swat Taliban to bring an end to violence in the valley. Within days of the peace deal, disagreements arose. Militants started attacking government officials and installations, destroying video shops and schools, and flogging people for alleged crimes. Taliban pushed into the neighboring Buner and Shangla districts only 60 miles from the Islamabad, creating a scare in the federal capital. In a televised public speech in Mingora, Sufi Muhammad did not condemn the violence. Instead, he said democracy, the parliament and the Supreme Court were un-Islamic. The government decided to carry out a military operation in the valley. Since then, Swat has remained largely peaceful. Position of weakness Apart from these major agreements, the government and the military entered into many tacit deals with various militant groups in the tribal areas. All of these were made from a position of weakness, to appease the militants. Taliban were accepted as equals, if not stronger, and the government was ready to give away any concession possible to reach a truce. And it was only interested in safeguarding its own property and personnel, and wasn't in any way concerned about the tribal elders loyal to the state, or the general population. In a majority of the cases, it paid substantial compensation for property damage, far exceeding actual damages. By singing agreements with individual militant commanders, the government and the military undermined the centuries-old tribal Jirga system, previously recognized as the only means to resolve disputes.
Nek Muhammad and Baitullah Mehsud were immediately elevated to the position of undisputed leaders of the area, ending the importance of tribal elders. The agreements also made the militants richer, and they used the money to hire more youth.The government could not move in the agency without their permission. The agreements were violated soon after they were signed, but the Taliban blamed the violations on splinter groups not under their control. Taliban's hold on certain areas as undisputed rulers enabled them to extend their influence into other areas. They began collecting taxes, holding courts, deciding tribal disputes and issuing decrees. As the government watched, the Taliban slaughtered pro-government elders, their family members and anyone else who would challenge their authority. Around 600 tribal elders were brutally killed. Those who survived were hounded out of the tribal areas. The people of the tribal areas are concerned that a new peace deal may result in a similar outcome. The government must address their concerns, and for that it must first acknowledge that the Taliban are not the sole owners of the tribal land. TFT CURRENT ISSUE| September 13-19, 2013 - Vol. XXV, No. 31 By Ghulam Qadir Khan Daur