Baitullah Mehsud and 35 others get government amnesty
By Iqbal Khattak
SARAROGHA: Militant leader Baituallah Mehsud signed a “peace deal” with the government here on Monday as he laid down his arms in a carefully orchestrated ceremony.
The ceremony was held in an open field surrounded by Taliban militants shouting “Death to America” and “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is great) as Baitullah, a 30-year-old Taliban commander in South Waziristan, signed the agreement. AP reported that 35 of his supporters were also part of the deal. Also present were a handful of army soldiers keeping an eye on proceedings from a distance through binoculars.
Baitullah said the Taliban did not want to fight Pakistan. “We understand fighting against Pakistani security forces did not help the Taliban at all,” said Baitullah, who kept his face covered to avoid being photographed, even after TV crews and press photographers were told to switch off their cameras.
“Pakistan has also realised that fighting tribal people is weakening its ability. Pakistan’s enemy are India, the Northern Alliance and Russia.”
He vowed to abide by the peace deal. “This agreement will last unless the government violates it.” Under the agreement, Baitullah cannot shelter or support foreign militants, nor can he attack government installations. If Baitullah or his supporters violate the agreement, the government will take action against him.
Abdul Kamal Khattak, Sarwakai assistant political officer, signed the agreement on behalf of the government. He hailed the deal as a “historic moment” that would bring peace to the area. “Without peace, development was impossible. Now peace has been restored, development schemes will be launched all over the region. We have money to spend and preference will be given to underdeveloped areas,” he said.
Baitullah insisted that he was no surrendering to the government. “My head can be chopped off but it will not bow to anybody. My head only bows to God five times a day.”
He said he had not signed the agreement “under duress or any other compulsion”. Talking to Daily Times before the signing ceremony, Baitullah said excluding Abdullah Mehsud from the peace agreement would not serve the government’s cause. A source close to the peace committee that negotiated the agreement told Daily Times that “top Taliban leadership” prevailed upon Baitullah to sign the deal even though Abdullah was excluded.