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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2222

Musharraf surrenders before Taliban

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

Many might see it as a near impossible feat. Pakistan president, Gen Pervez Musharraf, has 'reaffirmed' his ‘'ommitment'to fight terrorism---by signing a 'peace' agreement with the Taliban! Along with Al Qaeda, the joint US-ISI creation, called the Taliban, is one of the two forces synonymous with acts of terrorism in the world. Actually, the Musharraf feat is even more bizarre: under the 'peace' agreement with pro-Taliban tribal leaders, Islamabad will not arrest or pursue 'peaceful foreigners' staying illegally in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan, widely believed to be one of the safest sanctuaries for terrorists and the base for launching attacks in Afghanistan.

There must be rejoicing among the terrorists. Men like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, leaders of Al Qaeda and Taliban respectively, can look for immunity from capture, never mind the huge bounty the US is offering for their arrest. The accord was signed ostensibly to end violence in North Waziristan that has followed a year-long military operation there. The pro-Taliban militants have promised not to attack Pakistan army or civilian officers or cross the border for forays into Afghanistan. In return, Islamabad has given an assurance that it would immediately stop ground and air operations, free prisoners, send the army back to barracks, compensate the militants for losses and allow the tribal population to carry ‘small arms’.

The government has also asked ‘foreigners’ in North Waziristan to leave. But that is only a half-hearted measure as the past demand for their compulsory registration has been given up. Also, the ‘foreigners’ will be allowed to stay on if they ‘respect’ the terms of the peace deal.

Now all that the Pakistan leader, mindful of the tidal wave of anti-Americanism and pro-Al Qaeda / Taliban sentiments of his countrymen and under ever increasing pressure from his fundamentalist allies, has to do to ensure that men like bin Laden and Mullah Omar remain free from the fear of arrest is to certify that these eminent foreign guests of Pakistan have not participated in any violent activity. That job is, after all, carried out by the foot soldiers. If the Americans are pleased with this they are not admitting it openly, lest it offends their good 'uniformed' friend in Islamabad.

Soon after Pakistan government and the pro-Taliban tribal elders signed the peace deal the spokesman of Gen Pervez Musharraf, Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan told the American TV network, ABC News, that if Osama bin Laden behaved like ‘a good citizen’ and as long as he stayed like ‘a peaceful citizen’ he would not be taken into custody. When this TV interview embarrassed Islamabad, the Pakistanis, as could be expected, blamed it all on the media twisting the words of the Maj Gen and said that ‘if found’, Osama bin Laden would be brought to justice.

Whether Osama bin Laden would be ‘found’ in Pakistan, despite a firm belief that he is in fact hiding there, must be a $64 million question. As for the ‘twist’ to the Maj. Gen.’s statement, the ABC News has released the transcript of the interview to nail the Pak lie. The Americans must be amused; again they are not talking about it.

The so-called peace deal with the Taliban in North Waziristan scoffs at the US-led ‘war on terror’ in which Pakistan has been declared a front rank ally of the US, constantly being showered with cash, arms and ammunition to fight the ‘war on terror’. The deal gives legitimacy to the militants. It is a clear capitulation to the militants and a sure sign that the Pakistani army has failed, deliberately or otherwise, to tame the dehumanised marauders from the medieval times.

But for the clever Pakistani dictator the deal signed in Miranshah provides an opportunity to concentrate on quelling the rebellion in the equally troubled Balochistan province with US-gifted powerful military arms that had only recently taken the life of the charismatic Baloch tribal chief, Nawab Ahmed Khan Bugti. It is a different matter that Musharraf’s recipe of solving his country’s troubles with guns have been criticised across the Pakistani political spectrum. Many are talking about the days preceding the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971.

The North Waziristan peace agreement is believed to be similar to those signed in South Waziristan previously. That deal did not stop the pro-Taliban militants from launching attacks on soldiers and crossing the border. Locally, the effect of the deal was that it added to the number of Taliban supporters.

A repeat performance in North Waziristan is not ruled out where the Pakistan army has implicitly admitted its failure to drive out the fugitive Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives. It provided, as many commentators have noted, a face- saving device to the Pakistani army, headed by Musharraf, to retreat from a war it was always incapable of winning.

Maybe, for some time in the beginning the North Waziristan deal would be made to look like working well. Musharraf would not like his patrons in the West to believe that he has yielded before the rabidly anti-American forces in his country that include many bearded Generals and so-called 'liberal' politicians.

Early violations of the peace deal have the danger of inviting strong protests from the US and NATO forces hunting for terrorists on the Afghan side of the border. Given the porous borders and the affinity between people on either side the border how can the entry of the North Waziristan-based Taliban be prevented from entering Afghan territory?

The North Waziristan peace agreement comes at a time when Afghanistan has reported an all-time high production of 16,000 tons of opium amidst reports that opium has become the new engine for human trafficking in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It also follows a US claim of some success in degrading Al Qaeda.

The Pakistan ISI has a stake in the high cultivation of opium. It provides assistance to the opium flow from Afghanistan to the outside world. The ISI is known to use drug money for financing terrorist plots in Afghanistan and Kashmir. And, of course, the Taliban will be only too pleased to see opium trade flourish without any fear of military intervention.

- Syndicate Features -

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