Ahmedzai Wazir tribes, Taliban decide to keep ‘peace deal’ intact
* Taliban claim no hard feelings against Pakistan in wake of Kashmiri’s killing
* Tribal elders pledge not to allow fleeing Uzbek, Mehsud militants in their areas
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR: Ahmedzai Wazir tribes won on Monday local Taliban commanders’ support to keep the 2007 ‘peace deal’ going in South Waziristan after a US drone strike killed dreaded terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri on June 3, elders said.
“The Taliban commanders understood Pakistan could do little to stop these drone attacks and assured they will not break the 2007 peace deal the Taliban reached with the Ahmedzai Wazir tribes in reaction to the killing of senior militant leader Kashmiri,” a tribal elder told Daily Times by phone from Wana, agency headquarters of South Waziristan, after returning from the jirga.
Ilyas Kashmiri, said the tribal elder, was “confirmed dead” in the June 3 strike. The killing of Kashmiri, leader of Harkatul Jihad al-Islami (HJI), comes as serious blow to terrorist organisations spearheading attacks both inside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“We have been invited by the Taliban commanders to discuss the situation in the wake of Kashmiri’s killing and they (Taliban commanders) admitted they have no hard feelings against Pakistan after Kashmiri’s killing,” the elder said wishing not to be named for personal security.
Taliban leader Mullah Nazir did not attend the jirga, according to the elder, giving no reason for his absence nor did the elder say where the jirga was held with the senior Taliban commanders.
However, the Taliban commanders expressed anger at the military’s unannounced search and other operations, according to the elder, who added that the jirga members later called on the South Waziristan political agent, Atifur Rehman, to convey the message. “We are concerned at the military’s search and other operations, without taking local elders’ into confidence and one single clash with the army can jeopardise the peace deal between the Taliban and Ahmedzai Wazir tribes,” the unnamed Taliban commanders were quoted as saying during the jirga. The Ahmedzai Wazir tribes had inked peace deal in spring 2007 with Mullah Nazir-led Taliban after the tribes and Taliban had flushed out the Uzbek militants in popular uprising following the brutality of the Uzbeks.
“We have conveyed the message to the political agent after the meeting with the Taliban,” the elder gave the latest about ongoing activities to keep the areas safe in the wake of fears that “foreign agents” could sneak to make the situation crisis-like.
The political agent told the Ahmedzai Wazir elders that recent killing of foreign elements in the drone strikes were a “matter of concern” for the government in Islamabad. “The Ahmedzai Wazirs have to guard their areas against such foreign elements,” the political agent said, according to the elder.
“We told the political agent that porous border with Afghanistan and drone strikes make our protectors (indirect reference to local Taliban) unable to guard the Ahmedzai Wazir areas against infiltration of foreign militants,” the tribal elders responded to the political agent.
Meanwhile, the Ahmedzai Wazir elders said they would not allow fleeing Uzbek and Mehsud militants in their areas who might sneak from North Waziristan where media reports suggest the military may go on offensive against the Haqqani network and its affiliated local groups of militants.
“Both the Ahmedzai Wazir tribes and the Taliban are on the same page as far as presence of Uzbek and Mehsud tribes in our areas is concerned. We do not want this nor do the Taliban,” the tribal elder said when asked was there any possibility the militants might flee North Waziristan and take shelter in Wazir areas.
Ilyas Kashmiri, according to official sources, reached Wana suburb from North Waziristan hours before the deadly strike and more militant leaders’ arrival in the wake of likely military offensive there was not ruled out. South Waziristan experiences lesser drone attacks in comparison with North Waziristan. However, since June 3, four drone strikes were launched and scores of terrorists, including Punjabi and foreign Taliban, were killed so far.