Fool Me Twice? – Holding Talks With Taliban

Sep 27, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: General, Spotlight, The Diplomat

In recent days, there have been several major developments in the (N)-League-led Government’s attempts to hold peace talks with factions of the Pakistani Taliban. Chairman PTI, Imran Khan, has also been a strong advocate of holding peace-talks with the extremists, and he recently sent a message to the Taliban to open offices. This is surely not the first time a Pakistani Government has tried to negotiate with the extremist groups who are responsible for day-to-day target killing and bombings in the country. Since the Taliban first materialized in the hills of FATA and KPK, Islamabad has signed or agreed to quite a few peace deals with militant factions belonging to the group.

The results of these peace-treaties were not very savory though. Violence flared not long after the agreements became effective, and the Pakistani Taliban then demanded even further concessions from the government. Any temporary periods of harmony only served to further strengthen the militants, and only a few of the agreements lasted beyond a few months. Here, we evaluate the major peace agreements reached between the Government and several factions of Taliban, and measure the extent to which the deals achieved their objectives.

Shakai Peace Agreement [2004]:

In April 2004, the Shakai agreement was reached between Nek Muhammad Wazir of the Pakistani Taliban and the Musharraf Government. The deal came after a relatively unsuccessful military operation in March to pressure Nek Muhammad to stop backing foreign militants in South Waziristan. As part of the peace deal, the Government agreed to release Taliban prisoners, pay compensation to tribesmen for property damage in Army operations, and even provide money to the militants to settle their debt with AlQaeda. In return, Nek Muhammad agreed to register foreign militants and stop cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

Sitting at the same table with Pakistan Army officials provided Nek Muhammad, then a relatively obscure militant only in his 20s, the stature he previously did not have; thus, lessening the importance of the area’s other tribal elders. Immediately after signing the agreement, Nek Muhammad went back on his word, refusing to surrender foreign militants to the government. His faction also started targeting tribal elders who had helped negotiate the agreement. The government had no choice but to revoke Nek Muhammad’s amnesty, and another military operation against his faction was launched in June. Later that month, Nek Muhammad was killed in a US Drone Attack.

Srarogha Peace Agreement [2005]:

With the Taliban attacks spreading from the Ahmadzai Wazir region to the Mehsud region in South Waziristan, the government started negotiations with an aim to halt further Taliban expansion. In February 2005, a pact was signed with Baitullah Mehsud of the TTP in Srarogha, South Waziristan. This pact reportedly guaranteed compensation for homes damaged during military operations, and granted Baitullah Mehsud (and his supporters) amnesty from arrest. Conversely, the Mehsud militants were to end all attacks on Pakistan soil and abstain from aiding any foreign militants

Again, the deal served no purpose other than to elevate Baitullah above other tribal leaders in the area making him the region’s strongman. Clashes between the military and TTP militants in South Waziristan increased in the following months. The violence continued for years, and in July 2007, the army killed notorious militant leader Abdullah Mehsud. Baitullah Mehsud himself, was eventually killed by a U.S. drone strike in August 2009 although his faction still remains strong today, now led by Hakimullah Mehsud.

The North Waziristan Peace Agreement [2006]:

The only peace treaty that could be said to have achieved any amount of success was signed in Septemeber 2006 with Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who is mainly involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. Islamabad and Bahadar’s faction essentially agreed that in exchange for not carrying out attacks on Pakistani soil and expelling foreing militants from his ranks , the Pak Army will not target Bahadur. Upon the formation of the TTP in December 2007, he was announced as the militant group’s overall naib amir (Vice-President, sort of) under Baitullah Mehsud. Bahadur, however, has largely distanced himself from the TTP due to disagreements about the TTP’s attacks on Pakistan territory. Bahadur’s fighters move around freely in North Waziristan even today.

Swat Peace Treaty [2008]:

Fazlullah - The 'Radio Mullah'

Fazlullah – The ‘Radio Mullah’

When Maulana Fazlullah, a.k.a the ‘Radio Mullah’, established a religious seminary and started a movement to implement the Islamic Law in Swat in 2001, the valley suffered from continuous unrest. Fazlullah’s followers stopped girls from attending schools and women from visiting markets, unless they wore burqas. Fazlullah’s struggle for the implementation of Sharia took an even more violent form after Pakistani security forces raided the notorious Lal Masjid in 2007. When the newly-elected government in KPK came to power in 2008, it extended an offer of peace talks to Fazlullah, hoping to bring stability to the region through negotiations.

Following a series of discussions in Swat and Peshawar, the two sides reached a 16-point agreement on May 21, 2008 to bring an end to violence and restore peace to the valley. Within days however, disagreements arose. Demanding the retreat of the army from the valley and the release of their prisoners first, the radicals refused to surrender their arms as specified in the pact. Instead, they started attacking government officials, electronics shops, and schools. The army launched a military operation (Rah-e-Haq), but with the unprecedented levels of violence and casualties (both civilian and military), the KPK government had no choice but to implement the Shari`a-based Nizam-e-Adl regulation in Swat in February, 2009. Subsequently, Fazlullah declared a cease-fire.

Peace was to be short-lived however, as with the Army inactive, Fazlullah’s forces overran Mingora in May, and then pushed into the neighboring Shangla district, only 60 miles from Pakistan’s capital. The Taliban’s progress toward Islamabad caused Pakistan to launch a decisive military operation. Within two months of Operation Rah-e-Rast, Fazlullah fled Swat, and many of his commanders were either arrested or killed. The failure to arrest or kill Fazlullah may, and probably has already, come back to hurt Pakistan.

The Khyber Agreement [2008]:

Authorities also entered into an undocumented agreement with Lashkar-i-Islam in Khyber Agency after Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem in June 2008. Similar to the two agreements in Waziristan, Khyber authorities agreed to compensate the militants for property damage during the operation, as well as release several individuals held on charges of having ties to militants. Yet again, the agreement was quickly violated, and troops remain present in Khyber where they continue to conduct operations.

The Bajaur Agreement [2008]:

A deal similar to the one signed with Hafiz Gul Bahadur in 2006, but more covert, was reportedly reached with militant commander Faqir Muhammad in Bajaur Agency after Operation Sherdil in August 2008. Once the military operation concluded, there were various reports that Army had reached a non-aggression pact with the Bajaur militants. This secret agreement reportedly specifies that Faqir Muhammad’s Taliban faction will not target Pakistani security forces nor kill civilian targets in areas where the security forces operate. In exchange, Pakistani security forces will not target Faqir Muhammad’s militants.

Conclusion:

Thus, all of the deals with Taliban factions involved in attacks in Pakistan did not last for more than a few months, and the breach of each agreement resulted in severe bouts of violence including attacks on government offices, security forces and civilians. In most deals, the government provided significant financial compensation to the terrorists on the pretext of property damage, providing them with enough funding for future operations. Moreover, the agreements had the effect of adding prominence to Taliban leaders in tribal areas, solidifying support for them among their followers, and suppressing any voices of civilian resistance. As the bulk of the pacts were also signed from a position of government weakness, any clauses regarding the militants’ disarmament or the surrendering of foreign militants have been violated cheekily by the extremists.

It is unquestionable therefore, that talks with different blocs of the Taliban have not been successful in establishing peace and have been violated and exploited by the militants in almost all the cases. The only exception was the situation in the Swat Valley, where the government launched an aggressive military operation against the Pakistani Taliban after the peace deal failed to render any results. In that case, the Mullah Fazlullah-led Taliban faction was forced to flee the Valley, and that region remains in control of the government today.

The Author

Ali Qamber is an engineering student at PNEC, NUST. He is a certified maila from St. Patricks High and lives, loves and wastes his time in Karachi. Besides writing useless stuff such as above, he also enjoys the finer things in a Karachiite's life, like night-cricket, hangouts at the beach and strikes. Find him on twitter (@qamberger) or facebook (saliqamber).

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