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Pakistan, Taliban sign peace pact

Tuesday, 5 September 2006 - 10:32pm IST

Having failed to counter Talibans in Waziristan region, the Pak Army entered into another peace pact with pro-Taliban militants

Army officers and Taliban militants hugged and congratulated each other after inking the deal.

ISLAMABAD: Having failed to counter the insurgent Talibans in the Waziristan tribal region on the Pak Afghan border, the Pakistan Army Tuesday entered into yet another peace agreement with the pro-Taliban militants, primarily "to ensure a permanent peace in the area and to put an end to the continuing unrest in the Waziristan region."

The agreement was signed after a meeting between a group of the local Taliban leaders and a jirga formed by the Pakistani military authorities to mediate on their behalf. According to the official sources, senior army officers and Taliban militants hugged and congratulated each other after inking the agreement at a school in Miran Shah.

The breakthrough was achieved after the military accepted most of the militants’ demands — the release of all their men, return of their weapons and vehicles seized during various army operations, dismantling of the army check posts in the area, restoration of all perks and privileges of the tribal people and monetary compensation for all those residents of the area who were either killed and whose property was damaged during military operations.

The amount demanded by the militants as compensation is not known but a government official said the figure was enormous. The military authorities have further agreed to the withdrawal of the security forces from the checkpoints to its fortes in North Waziristan; releasing the arrested Taliban militants and returning the weapons seized during military operations.

In exchange for accepting their demands, the Taliban militants have accepted the military’s demand to immediately cease terrorist attacks on the civil and military installations in the area. The militants have further given an assurance to the army that they would neither use the Pak-Afghan border to launch cross border attacks into the Afghan territory nor allow anyone else to do so.

Moreover, in a major concession, the military has allowed all foreign militants in Waziristan, including the Most Wanted ones, either to leave the area or to keep living there after furnishing tribal guarantees of good conduct.

Despite the deployment of over 80,000 Pakistani troops along the Afghan border in the tribal areas to capture the fugitive Taliban and Al Qaeda elements, the situation is far from stable in a region that is crucial to three world capitals — Islamabad, Washington and Kabul. Waziristan, often in the news due to frequent clashes between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban militants, is now more-or-less controlled by the local Taliban, which has established a foothold in both North and South Waziristan and has opened recruiting offices these areas to hire new fighters.

The peace agreement has been signed at a time when the Waziristan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan’s volatile southern and southwestern provinces are once again the focus of the war on terror and are likely to soon become as significant to the US as Afghanistan itself. The Americans are already pointing directly at the North and the South Waziristans as the primary conduit for the suicide bombers who are playing havoc with the US and NATO-led war machine in Afghanistan, and a safe haven for enemy combatants.

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