Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has called on the Taliban to stop their militant activities against the Pakistani government. His announcement states that those who violate the accord will be hung upside down in bazaars.
This indicates that Islamabad has possibly concluded a deal with the tribal elders of the Mehsuds, the dominant tribe of South Waziristan (one of the seven tribal areas), which counts Baitullah as one of their tribesmen. A previous failed accord in 2005 was between Islamabad and the militants.
Dawn provides details of the 15-point draft agreement with the Mehsud elders.
The apparent agreement with the Mehsuds coincides with the release of Maulana Sufi Muhammad of Swat. He, however, has little control over the main insurgents in that area, including his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah.Earlier in the day, White House spokesperson Dana Perino expressed misgivings about negotiations with militants:
“We are concerned about it and what we encourage them to do is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any security or military operations that are ongoing in order to help prevent a safe haven for terrorists there….But in general, yes, we have been concerned about these types of approaches because we don’t think that they work.”
But Pakistan and Afghanistan are fooling themselves if they think that their respective insurgencies can be solved without bilateral–indeed, multilateral–coordination. In a sign of how much that is lacking, today, a Pakistani Frontier Corps officer was killed by Afghan security forces in a clash with militants. And U.S. forces on the ground contend that there is collusion between low-mid level Pakistan intelligence and Frontier Corps officers. It’s a recipe for continued conflict, albeit with a shift in alliances.
Pakistan will continue as a party to the conflict as long as militants from its territory attack U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan and it provides a supply route and other assistance to coalition forces.
Maulvi Omar, the spokesperson for the Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) tells BBC Urdu that his organization will abide by its pre-election ceasefire commitment and would not derail the process.
He told Reuters, “Neither do we support the process of the election nor do we have any opposition to it and if any attack takes place before or on election day, our mujahid won’t be involved in it.”
Omar also stated that his group has no links to or knowledge behind the kidnapping of Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin.
A report from al-Jazeera (apparently by Ahmad Zaidan), channeled through GEO TV and some Pakistani dailies, claims that local Taliban seized Azizuddin with the intent to exchange him for Mansoor Dadullah, an Afghan Taliban figure arrested by Pakistani security forces on the same day.
Since Mehsud has limited control over other Taliban factions, it is conceivable that Taliban local to the Khyber Agency (one of the seven tribal areas) are responsible. The area, however, is also proliferate with general bandits.
Aside from the major question of who kidnapped Azizuddin, it remains unclear why the Pakistani ambassador traveled to Kabul from Peshawar, his home city, by car when flights are regular. One report claims he was to stop by the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. Was his specific business could be related to his disappearance? Interestingly, while the Pakistani government has not yet confirmed that Azizuddin was kidnapped, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai seems to insist that he was, which begets the question of what does he know.
Ahmad Zaidan, al-Jazeera’s Islamabad bureau chief, interviewed Baitullah Mehsud in December. The video, provided above, was aired on the station a few days ago. It’s Mehsud’s first television interview.
The leader of Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) speaks in Pashto (translated by AJ into Arabic) while Zaidan presents the questions in Arabic.
[Note: I am also an Arabic speaker.]
Some key points are below.
On the Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan
- The alliance took so long to form because of several challenges, including the assistance needed by the Arabs and Uzbeks and the attempts of the Pakistani government to divide the population. The biggest losers of the Taliban alliance, says Mehsud, will be Washington, Britain, and the other countries of disbelief.
Relations with the original Taliban and al-Qaeda
- He and his group members have given their bayah, or oath of allegiance, to Mullah Omar, the amir ul mumineen. Omar leads not only Afghanistan, but the entire Muslim world. The Muslims, even in America, are “our” brothers.
- Skirts issue of relations with AQ, particularly bin Laden and Zawahiri. Simply says a Muslim is a brother of a Muslim. Does mention that Zarqawi was among Mehsud & Co. prior to heading to Iraq.
- First priority is the conducting of a defensive jihad. He says the Pakistani army attacks their homes on the orders of George W. Bush. Would like Pakistani forces out b/c of their displayed ‘barbarism’.
- Secondary goal is the application of Islamic law throughout Pakistan. The movement will not just be in the northwest, but spread throughout Pakistan into Punjab and Sindh.
The Pakistani Army
- It plays the different tribes and regions off of one another. In area X it is in peace talks or has a truce in place, and then in area Y it is in a state of war. Then the roles change, and it is in combat against area X and talking peace with area Y. He calls this a “policy of deception.”
- The Pakistani army’s war in the tribal areas is an American war. He quotes the Qur’anic prohibition on taking Jews and Christians (5:51) as one’s protectors several times.
- Musharraf is a slave of Bush, the West, and the disbelievers. He’s declared a war against them and the Arab and Uzbek migrants, who have come to defend Islam and Pakistan, under American pressure. He submitted them to the Americans, killed women and children.
- Islam doesn’t permit the killing of women and children, which nukes would inevitably do. Don’t have thoughts about the use of nuclear weapons. America killed innocents in Japan–Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fear right now is the use of American bombs against the Muslims as they used against the Japanese. Says, we fear the American bombs, not the Pakistani bombs. At least the Pakistani bombs are controlled by Muslims.
- “Yes, we send and will send our boys into Afghanistan for jihad.”
- Denied links to India, Iran, etc. Says his successes are due to the grace of God. Skirts issue of funding source. Says their arsenal comes from booty taken from opponents.
In an interview with BBC Urdu, the South Waziristan neo-Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud says that the assortment of militant groups in Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies and neighboring Malakand region of the NWFP (including Swat) have united under a new umbrella named the “Taliban Movement of Pakistan” (TMP) or Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan.
The movement is led by Mehsud as amir and Maulvi Omar as spokesperson. TMP consists of a 40 member shura (advisory) council and was formed in a meeting of 20 representatives of the neo-Taliban, concluding a month or so of continuous talks.
Mehsud said the new organization’s objective vis-a-vis the government is to unite the neo-Taliban’s disparate, localized groups so that it can deliver the next government a “complete response” to “set its mind straight.”
Maulvi Omar stated that the TMP provide a unified council that would engage or oppose the government on behalf of all member groups. This would bring an end to the localized and discordant neo-Taliban dealings with the government, noting that the government is crushing the neo-Taliban in Swat, while there are talks being conducted in Bajaur, and accords have been made in Waziristan.
He gave the Pakistani military a ten day ultimatum to:
- cease its operations in Swat and vacate the territory;
- close its checkpoints in in North and South Waziristan and Swat;
- release the previous khateeb of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, as well as other neo-Taliban prisoners.
Omar added that his group’s fundamental goal has been to oppose or impede the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, but because of the Pakistani government’s “incorrect policies”, it was compelled to wage a “defensive jihad” within the country.