Ottawa Citizen

Taliban militias defy peace deal, impose control

Groups rule northern Pakistan near Afghan border, run ‘ government­s’

- BY ISAMBARD WILKINSON

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan • Taliban militias in Pakistan have set up offices, introduced taxes and taken control of justice in the tribal agency of North Waziristan, where last month the Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with militants.

In violation of the agreement, a Taliban shura, or council, distribute­d pamphlets of its policies on the weekend, while militants have begun to patrol the area’s streets and have already killed numerous “ American spies.”

A “ tax schedule” detailed how businesses are liable to pay charges to the Taliban. Trucks entering the agency will pay for a six- month pass while gas pump owners will have to make contributi­ons to the council. The taxes were described as a “ donation” in the pamphlet.

The deal signed by the government on Sept. 5 stipulated that al- Qaeda fighters were to be expelled from North Waziristan, and pro- Taliban militants were not to run a “ parallel administra­tion,” or take part in fighting against coalition forces across the border. In return, Pakistani forces, who had been fighting militants over the summer, withdrew from combat. The army retained the right to launch strikes in the area if militants do not adhere to the deal.

It was later discovered by Pakistani journalist­s that the deal was signed with wanted militants and not with tribal elders, as was officially claimed. Pakistani officials hoped the deal would empower tribal elders to control militants in their region, but an estimated 120 of them have been killed in the past year.

Following the withdrawal of the army, a power vacuum has been filled by mullahs and their long- haired, bearded, AK- 47- toting militants. According to Pakistani reporters, some of the militants wear badges that read, “ Appointed by the office of the Taliban, the mujahedeen of the North Waziristan Agency.”

Power is now in the hands of a “ mullahcrac­y,” and people President Pervez Musharraf recently dismissed as “ charasi,” or hashish- smoking thugs, use the Taliban’s mantle to coerce residents.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani, a member of North Waziristan’s Taliban shura, said his followers were abiding by the pact. But he said they still offered “ moral support” to those fighting in Afghanista­n. “ There is no doubt that we support this jihad against infidels, against these Christians who have invaded a Muslim land. ”

Instead of crossing from Waziristan, fighters continue to cross into Afghanista­n from other areas. A fighter from North Waziristan told a Reuters news agency reporter, “ If you can’t go into Afghanista­n from Waziristan, you can go from other areas. There are many, many other ways to go.”

NATO officials in Afghanista­n said militant activity has increased 300 per cent in the border regions since the pact was signed.

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