A senior minister in the government of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province said the two sides sealed the 15-point plan on Wednesday during talks in the provincial capital, Peshawar.
Militants agreed to recognize the government's authority, halt suicide and bomb attacks and hand over any foreign militants in the area, minister Bashir Bilour told reporters after the talks.
In return, the government will release prisoners and make limited concessions on the demands of the cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, for the imposition of Islamic law in the region, he said.
Bilour also said that the army would "gradually" withdraw from the area - a key demand of the militants.
Ali Bakht Khan, an envoy for Fazlullah, called on the government to release 202 of his associates from custody within the next two weeks.
"We will follow this agreement and shall cooperate to bring peace to Swat," Khan said.
It was unclear whether either Fazlullah or his commanders, whose men allegedly beheaded captured soldiers and pro-government elders, would face any punishment.
Ah yes, there's that we-will-impose-Islamic-law-and-you-will-not-interfere bit. The common denominator among terrorists. Needless to say the Taliban are happier than a pig in a poke about the negotiations. And why shouldn't they be? The aces fall mostly into their hands. However what comes to mind is again, Barry Rubin's article in the Israeli Insider, where he said:
If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.
But note this deal bears remarkable resemblance to the truce with Baitullah Mehsud's little deal last month. Per an April 24th, 2008 Dawn news blurb:
Pakistan closing in on pact with militant Mehsud tribe PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 25 (Reuters) - Pakistan is close to clinching a peace pact with the Mehsuds, one of the most recalcitrant tribes in its tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
“It's now a matter of days before we have an agreement. The talks are in a very advanced stage,” a senior government official involved in the negotiations told Reuters.
A draft of the 15-point accord with the Mehsud tribal elders was shown to Reuters. It included a call for an end to militant activity, exchange of prisoners and gradual withdrawal of the army from South Waziristan. The draft did not explicitly say whether militants should stop cross-border attacks into neighbouring Afghanistan. But it did say Mehsud tribesmen should expel al Qaeda and other foreign fighters from their area within a month and stop their lands being used as a base for attacks.
While the authorities and tribal elders made final touches to the pact, Baitullah Mehsud, who was declared as the leader of the Pakistani Taliban late last year, on Wednesday ordered his followers to stop attacks inside Pakistan. A government official described the ceasefire as part of a series of confidence building measures that will be taken before the agreement is signed. He said the government also planned to lift blockade of Mehsud territory by the military. (Posted @ 16:30 PST)
This earlier agreement has been moving forward with little western press. Prisoners have been exchanged, the Pak military pulled back because Baitullah threatened to halt talks when they didn't, and Mehsud met with with the NWFP Governor yesterday to demand reopening of the roads.
Just how does Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta feel about Pakistan's new found friendship with their militants? Needless to say, they are quite unhappy, and sound remarkably like the US Cowboy President.
“Anyone thinking that they are able to reach peace in the region through what we call an appeasement policy — we consider it is a wrong and dangerous policy,” Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told reporters.
A peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban in 2006 reportedly led to a spike in violence across the border.
Describing the 2006 deal as bad for Afghanistan, Spanta said the government was “extremely and infinitely concerned” about Islamabad’s moves, which officials in Pakistan say have seen troops redeployed in the tribal zone.
He cited media reports as saying the Taliban wanted peace in Pakistan so they would be able to continue jihad in Afghanistan.
“As the victim of terrorism, we have the right to say we’re concerned,” the minister said, adding Kabul had spoken of its fears with Islamabad and Washington.—AFP
While it's highly touted by western media that the US military is on the brink of "breaking", and "spread too thin", it is less reported that the enemy is in the same boat. They are but a shadow of their former selves, reconstituting their organization in Pakistan. If part of these agreements are to again shuffle the fighters back across the borders, Afghani leaders are right to be concerned.
And for what end? Peace talks and truces between the Pak government and their militants do not have a history of success. Afghanistan's concern that this may be merely a bait and switch maneuver is echo'ed by the US and John Negroponte, also citing the last failure with Baitullah Mehsud in 2006. The Afghanis and US/NATO forces will beat the militants back again, and they will - once again - land in the laps of the Pakistanis who seem content merely to get them out of their own back yards.
Fact is, until the Pak govt stops refusing int'l help in controlling these cockroaches (or takes assertive moves to control them theirselves), this ping pong of the enemy will go on, unabated. Yes... Pakistan remains a looming problem for the next POTUS.
Considering the terms of these "truces", one might say it's time to sent our stop watches. To see signs of cooperation at the onset, Mehsud terms dictate he should be expelling foreign fighters within a month. The Fazlullah is supposed to hand them over to the Pak government... but with no stated time frame in the AP article.
From what we've seen of Mehsud's deal in the early weeks, his demands have been fast and furious, and the threats of resuming hostilities remain bubbling ever close to the surface. Yet there is still no line of exiled foreign AQ/Taliban crossing the border to Afghanistan enmasse. Meshud has what he wants. And what of the Pak goverment? They have temporarily quieted the bombs and deaths, and still await bussing of the enemy to anywhere but Pakistan. Yet despite the "peace" deal, the fostering and support of jihad movements - source of Pakistan's bombs - continues. The problem has not been solved. Merely relocated and postponed.
This dependence upon the bad guys to police their own militant buddies contrasts starkly with Iraq military's recent launching of Operation The Lion's Roar - a mission to forcibly expel the foreign elements from their soil. Already in their short history, the Iraqi government has learned that you cannot depend upon those that harbor the foreigners to kick them out into the cold.
But note the word used by Afghanistan's Foreign Minister - "appeasement". This is not a media pundit or candidates for POTUS. This is a word used by a leader who sees the results of "appeasement" in their own back yards. It is a very real result of an oft tried and failed policy.
Which brings us, once again, to our regional ally Afghanistan and their objections to Pakistan's "appeasement" (their words) process. This is a policy that US hopeful, Barack Obama, has every intention of mimicking. The likelihood of a President Obama succeeding in peace with such appeasement deals is just as unlikely as Pakistan will be with theirs.
But obviously, it's extremely likely that he will accomplish royally pissing off our allies...
UPDATE MAY 22nd, 2008 - BRITAIN SIDES WITH APPEASEMENT POLICY
According to today Adnkronos article, Britain has decided to back the negotiations with the Pakistani militants.
Britain supports talks between Pakistan’s new rulers and tribal leaders aimed at curbing insurgency along the Afghan border, Foreign Secretary David Miliband told a US audience late on Wednesday.
In a speech to a Washington think-tank, Miliband said there was “no military solution” to the spread of militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Miliband and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a joint press conference in Washington on Wednesday that promoting democracy was the best way to fight terrorism in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.
He visited Pakistan last month for talks with the new government and backed the government’s effort to seek a negotiated solution to the insurgency in its tribal region.
But Miliband warned that there should only be reconciliation with those who renounce violence.
Miliband is Britain's youngest foreign sec'y in three decades. Appointed by PM Gordon Brown, he's part of the kinder/gentler British rule that is slowly emerging after the departure of the US ally, Tony Blair. An outspoken "skeptic" of the OIF from the get go, Miliband has been busy shaking up his department, moving diplomats to cover the Asian and Middle East areas more heavily.
He is, evidently, a believer that the days of the US as a superpower are on the decline.
While the world's balance of power is moving from West to East, some have overstated the decline of the United States as the world's superpower, he told the audience.
"In economic terms, and even more so in military terms, the U.S. will have at least another generation as the global superpower," Miliband said. "Nevertheless, this century may come to be known as the Asian century."
Miliband said the United States remains Britain's most important ally, but acknowledged links with a host of other countries are becoming increasingly important.
Our allies... oh joy. Well, he and a President Obama should see eye to eye on the increasing irrelevance of the US in a world dominated by appeasement and politically correct behavior. I guess between the two, they will only piss off our allies who are actually engaging the jihad movement enemies...