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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pakistan Clarifies Terms of Tribal Peace Deal


Pakistan on Sept. 12 clarified the terms of a peace deal signed last week with tribal elders in the troubled regions bordering Afghanistan, saying pro-Taliban militants were not a party to it.

”The agreement is between the tribesmen of North Waziristan and the government. It is not with the militants,” the governor of North Western Frontier Province, Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, told a press conference.
”The grand jirga (council of tribal elders) of the entire tribal area representing the elders and maliks (chieftains) actually brokered this deal between the government and the tribes,” Aurakzai said.

The peace accord signed on September 5 calls for the expulsion of foreign al-Qaida fighters from the restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan. Those who cannot quit will have to lay down their arms and pledge to live peacefully.

The deal is aimed at ending two years of violence in the semi-autonomous tribal zone of North Waziristan where hundreds of people have died in clashes between security forces and Islamic rebels.

The government in turn agreed to release those arrested during army operations and freed more than 130 detained tribesmen. It also restored privileges of tribal leaders to facilitate the peace process, officials said.

A government spokesman said at the time of the signing that local officials, tribal elders, religious leaders and representatives of militant groups had signed the deal in North Waziristan’s main town Miranshah.
But Aurakzai explained he had called the press conference to clarify that the militants had not signed the deal, as earlier reported.

He specified that “high-value targets” within the Taliban and al-Qaida movements would be not allowed to stay in Pakistani tribal areas under any circumstances.

”Taliban are foreigners — there is no place for them in any of our areas,” he said.

The deal had been criticised by analysts who voiced concern that Pakistan had conceded too much ground to militants as it relies heavily on the tribal elders for implementation.

Despite the agreement, an elderly tribesman was shot dead in North Waziristan last week by suspected militants who accused him for spying for U.S. forces operating in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, has deployed some 80,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban militants and al-Qaida fugitives who sneaked into the region after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
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