Pakistan: Fighters snub olive branch
- Foreign fighters snub Pakistan's olive branch
An April 30 amnesty deadline came and went without a single
By Gretchen Peters
May 03, 2004
[NOTE: The term "foreign" is a propaganda wordplay. The fighters are
locals interested in defending their country against the invasion of
In a setback to Islamabad's new strategy, an April 30 amnesty
deadline came and went without a single registrant.
By Gretchen Peters | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN Suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants hiding
out in this country's semiautonomous tribal belt have ignored an
April 30 deadline for foreigners to register with the government and
lay down their arms.
Pakistani authorities this weekend quietly extended the amnesty
offer, expressing hope that an extra seven days would convince the
militants to live in harmony with the federal government here, and to
cease attacking US troops over the Afghan border. Officials also
encouraged local tribal leaders to vouch for the safety of those
foreigners who cooperate.
HUNT: A tribal force searched for fugitives in South Waziristan last
"This has been a farce from the start," says Ahmed Rashid, author of
The Taliban. "I think it won't be long before we see some action from
the Americans on this."
Diplomats and analysts say the recent events represent a significant
setback to the war on terror and the hunt for top Al Qaeda leaders,
but have come at a time when the Bush administration is largely
preoccupied with Iraq. Pointing to the spurned amnesty offer, many
doubt the government's peace option has a serious chance and instead
view it as a way to postpone a difficult military offensive.
"These are the same hardened terrorists who won round one in March,"
says one foreign diplomat. "Why on earth would they give up now?"
In March, Pakistan's military got badly bruised when a mission to
capture or kill an estimated 400 extremists in South Waziristan left
more than 100 soldiers and civilians dead, and failed to capture any
Pakistani authorities then convinced tribal chieftans in South
Waziristan to form a lashkar, or tribal army, to hunt down the
militants themselves. The irregular force staged a war dance before
heading to hills with red ribbons tied to their rifles so they would
know not to shoot each other. However, they failed to round up
Finally, last week, a top commander of the Northwest Frontier
Province, Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, traveled to South Waziristan to
meet local militants who support the foreign fighters, telling a
cheering crowd wearing long robes and enormous turbans that, "the
impression this is the den of terrorists has been proven wrong."
It was an ironic statement, given that video footage of the meeting
shows one of the militants, Naik Mohammad, arriving to greet military
officers with his Uzbek bodyguard in tow. Local sources in South
Waziristan say the Islamic Movement for Uzbekistan, an extremist
group closely allied to Al Qaeda and to Mr. Mohammed, organized his
security for the event.
"We have neither surrendered nor laid down our arms," said another
militant, former Taliban commander Maulvi Abbass, hours after the
deal. "I have been with the Taliban from beginning to end."
Washington so far has remained publicly silent about Pakistan's peace
deal with the militants, yet privately, senior US military officers
are upset. US troops hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives in
Afghanistan routinely pursue enemy combatants who cross the border.
Indeed, the peace deal in South Waziristan came just two days after a
Taliban ambush in nearby Khost Province killed football-player-turned
Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Some Pakistani military officials are horrified since so many of
their own soldiers lost their lives in the operation in March and now
have little faith that the peace initiative will bear fruit.
"It's very much like the situation in Iraq," says Talat Massood, a
former secretary of defense. "They are finding it difficult to go the
military way, and they are also on the defensive politically."
Pakistani officials have insisted that a peace deal with local
militants, like Mohammed and Abbass, will help them separate the bad
guys from the really bad - or allow them to co-opt the local
militants while they focus their effort hunting Al Qaeda.
Additional reporting by Mujib-ur Reham in South Waziristan.
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