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Has Taliban pulled out of the peace deal in Pakistan?

Last updated on: May 09, 2012 03:18 IST

There are indications that Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar has scrapped his longstanding peace agreement with the government of Pakistan, reports Tahir Ali. 

The situation in North Waziristan is tense after Sunday's clashes between militants led by Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Pakistani security forces. The fighting has so far left 19 soldiers and seven civilian dead while more than 90 people have sustained injuries. Taliban have also circulated a pamphlet in the area urging Muslims for jihad in the wake of Osama bin Laden's first death anniversary.

North Waziristan is under the strong influence of militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar Wazir, who is considered to be a "good Taliban". Good Taliban are those who only fight against the United States-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan and do not attack Pakistani security forces and other installations.

Pakistan has repeatedly turned down US requests to take on militants in North Waziristan. Some sections of the Pakistani establishment call these "good Taliban" as valuable assets and think that they could be used to serve Islamabad's interest in Afghanistan.  

Gul Bahadar, 53, has always tried to keep his area clear of any tension between the Taliban and security forces. He is also close to the Haqqani network, which is supposed to be based in North Waziristan. Due to his strong position, members of the anti-state militants like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Punjabi Taliban and Uzbeks militants, currently based in North Waziristan, could not attack security forces.

Gul Bahadar has a clear message for such people, 'either remain in peace or to leave North Waziristan'.

Hafiz Gul Bahadar has been observing a peace agreement with the Pakistani government since the last six years. Following a massive military operation in North Waziristan, he inked a peace agreement with the government in October 2006. Although a time came when the Taliban scrapped the agreement for a while, the government realises the importance of Gul Bahadar.

In 2008, Hafiz Gul Bahadar announced a breach of peace agreement in response to the US drone attacks in his area but with no effect. In the following year, his men attacked a military convoy and killed around 30 soldiers near Miransha but the government remained silent and settled the situation through dialogues. In March 2011, following the killing of his top commander Sharbat Khan in a drone attack, Hafiz Gul Bahadar threatened to pull out of the peace deal but once again he was convinced not to.

Sunday's clashes seem unusual and there are some indications that Hafiz Gul Bahadar has scrapped his longstanding peace agreement with the government of Pakistan. Apparently the fighting erupted at Miransha, the headquarters of North Waziristan, as a reaction to the killing of Maulana Naseeb Khan Wazir who was a leading cleric at Darul Uloom Haqqania Akora Khattak in Nowshera.  

The slain Maulana belonged to Waziristan and was serving in Darul Uloom Haqqania as a teacher. Due to his presence in the Madrassah, every year, hundreds of students rushed to Akora Khattak from Waziristan. These days a number of clerics qualified from Akora Khattak are amongst the leading commanders of Taliban.

Maulana Naseeb Khan was on his way to Peshawar from Darul Uloom Haqqania when some unknown people after intercepting him pushed the cleric into their vehicle. On May 2, Naseeb's body was found at a place near Peshawar. The incident took place when the extremist powers were observing the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden. The killing of Maulana sent shocking waves across the country, especially amongst the religious circles representing the Deobandi school of thought. Addressing a gathering of militants at Miransha, Muhammad Ahmadi, the spokesperson of Hafiz Gul Bahadar warned, "We will revenge the killing of Maulana Naseeb." Taliban doubt that he was killed by Pakistani secret agencies. As Ahmadi had warned of dire consequences the militants attacked with rockets a military convoy following a gun battle in Miransha.

A Waziristan based government official informed that so far 19 Pakistani soldiers have been killed while around 20 have sustained injuries. In this way, seven tribals, including two children and three women, have been killed while around 71 have sustained injuries during the ongoing battle. Following the clashes the army imposed curfew in Miransha and its surrounding. Situation at the area remained tense, especially on Sunday and Monday, but as the curfew was relaxed on Tuesday, local militants circulated a pamphlet in the area urging people for jihad.

The pamphlet, while having no name of any militant organisation, has called Muslims to fight a jihad against the infidel forces while referring to the sacrifices of Osama bin Laden. A sign and date over the document shows May 2, Osama's death anniversary, but due to the tense situation it was not distributed on that particular day.

A copy of the pamphlet, which is available with rediff.com, reads, "It is time to announce holy jihad and to make sacrifices like Osama bin Laden. It has been a year since Osama was martyred, but the US has got nothing out of it. The US is near defeat while the future of Pakistan is also dark."

Experts believe if Hafiz Gul Bahadar turns from a 'good Taliban' to a 'bad Taliban' the results would be disastrous for Pakistan. Under these situation, tribal sources revealed, that efforts are going on to bring the situation back into control.

Reportedly, a jirga representing local elders and members of the Haqqani network is trying to reach the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group to stop the fighting.

Tahir Ali in Islamabad