PESHAWAR: Gunmen on Thursday shot dead a former pro-Taliban lawmaker who was instrumental in brokering several peace deals between the government and militants, officials said.
The killing took place in a village near the town of Tank, which borders South Waziristan - the tribal district where the military last October launched an air and ground offensive to flush out Taliban militants. “Maulana Mirajuddin was on his way home after saying his morning prayers when two gunmen riding a motorbike opened fire on him,” district police officer Ejaz Abid told AFP. Mirajuddin received multiple bullet wounds and died before he could be taken to hospital, he added.
Local intelligence officials confirmed the incident, but said nobody has so far claimed responsibility for the killing. Mirajuddin was a central leader of the Jamiatul Ulema-e- Islam (JUI-F) and a former member of Pakistan’s lower house of parliament. He was instrumental in helping to broker a peace deal in South Waziristan in 2005 between the government and the founder of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US missile attack last August.
He also sat on a committee which held negotiations with Mehsud in 2007, which led to a ceasefire in South Waziristan. Pakistan’s military is fighting against militants across much of its semi-autonomous tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, a region branded by Washington the most dangerous place on Earth. Washington believes militant safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal belt must be eliminated if al Qaeda is to be defeated and the nearly nine-year war against the Taliban brought to an end in Afghanistan.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.