Return of the Taliban The North Waziristan Agreement

Two days ago Afghan television showed three flags fluttering atop a house near the Durand Line; the three flags belonged to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the JUI(F).  One can draw many meanings from this picture.  To me it represents the probable future of this region. It also defines the recent agreement signed between the Pakistan government and the Taliban in Miramshah.  South and Eastern Afghanistan is likely to come under the control of a Salafist local movement; the politics in NWFP will mirror such a change in the not too distant future.  This political convergence will lead to further violence and the destabilization of the region; its waves will not be confined to Pakistan and Afghanistan alone. Col Ralph Peters, projection about changes in this region are a possibility. 

I briefly examine some clauses of the recent agreement in North Waziristan between the Pakistan military and the local Taliban movement. I believe that we are dealing in North and South Waziristan, and in Afghanistan with a Salafist movement, whose votaries have been trained in the madrassas belonging to the JUI (F).  This movement has supplanted the tribal administrative structure.  The political agent of tribal areas is reduced to a cowering and meaningless administrative mass; his past glories remain a tale.  On ground the Taliban control the region more effectively now that they have forced the military to retreat; the political agent and his control system has been reduced to insignificance. The rebels have been returned their weapons and the arrested Talibans released. I wish peace was such an easy prize to achieve. 

            Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the leader of the opposition in the national assembly of Pakistan and head of the Jamat Ulema Islam played a major role in brokering a deal between the Taliban and the military.  A JUI (F) member of parliament from North Waziristan, Maulana Nek Zaman, played a pivotal role in these parleys; a pervious army commander of this region described him as leader of the militants. 

            There are many weaknesses in the agreement and that is why I find it a harbinger of bad tidings in the future; for one it does not contain an effective enforcement clause.  Agreements in tribal custom are enforceable because they are rooted in compensation derived from sureties to the agreement; when a violation of an agreement occurs then under custom and tribal law as laid down in the Frontier Crimes Regulation, compensation is sought from the larger tribe; it creates a virtuous circle of responsibility where each individual acts responsibly in the fear that he may end up facing tribal ire and enmity.  In this agreement the parties are the state and the Taliban movement in Waziristan. The virtuous circle of collective tribal responsibility can not be called into play since the Taliban is not a tribe; therefore this agreement to my mind is unenforceable. Furthermore, the monitors of the agreement is a collection of individuals whose preferences are not neutral.

            Secondly, by forcing the military to release Taliban fighters a poor precedent has been set; the lesson is that it is not justice that matters but brute force.  Who in his right senses will pursue the more then hundred cases of murder and assassination of government elders like Malik Faridullah?  It is obvious that tribal justice will now be meted Taliban style to the exclusion of state justice, which was formerly provided by the political agent.

            The military by agreeing to pay compensation for the dead and injured has in effect accepted indemnity an admission that it was pursuing a faulty policy. It is not understood under what Alice in Wonderland logic does the agreement mean by urging that foreigners should either leave or live peacefully in tribal areas by giving sureties of good behavior?  Firstly, why did the military not accept this at the start  more then two years ago? Had this policy been adopted, which is normal under tribal custom, we may not have had so many meaningless killings.  Secondly, does it mean that those who are wanted for crimes are now free? 

More serious is the fact that the agreement is unlikely to prevent sanctuary for those fleeing hot pursuit by allied forces operating in Afghanistan.  This situation will cause all sorts of problems. Our territory will be violated since we would not be able to prevent cross-border movement due to capacity problems; we just cannot do it.  The Talibans now have a much larger space and supportive conditions for deepening their movement.  Their influence will increase throughout the southern NWFP districts.  It is also likely that Maulana Sufi Mohammad’s Islamic movement centered in the mountains of Malakand will re-emerge.  These events are likely to coalesce into a formidable political force, which will sweep the next elections for the MMA in NWFP. In Afghanistan the bumper poppy crop will fuel support for the Talibans.

The real victors from the North Waziristan agreement is the JUI (F) and their Taliban supporters. The former are now in a position to carry the next elections in NWFP, while the later recognized as a movement.  It is a situation rife with serious consequences; one of these is likely to be hot pursuit by allied forces in Afghanistan.  One may ask is there no solution then?  I am afraid there is none as long as foreign forces remain in Afghanistan and so long as tribal areas are out of bound for the mainstream political parties; only the religious JUI (F) seems to have the permission to canvass in tribal areas.  Till this situation changes, the killings will go on. NWFP, I am afraid will become the center of a political and law and order vortex. The tribal areas will be volatile with diminishing Pakistani control.

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