Seeking ‘dubious’ peace with the Taliban

Published: October 22, 2011
The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore

The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore

Talking peace with the Taliban is a tough undertaking. The Americans who want to talk to the Afghan Taliban should take a close look at how Pakistan fared when it talked to its own Taliban. One can also make a guess at what will happen in the wake of the September 2011 APC in Islamabad as Pakistan gets ready to talk to the Taliban once again.

In 2003, Musharraf nearly got killed when three attacks on him — by al Qaeda through Abu Faraj alLibi, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Pakistan Air Force personnel — on him were foiled. He wanted a counter-attack in South Waziristan but was thwarted by his corps commander in Peshawar, General Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, who preferred retirement to an operation.

The succeeding corps commander Peshawar, General Safdar Hussain, was from the ISI — its second-most important member, DG Analysis. He made peace with the Taliban commander Nek Muhammad at Shakai in 2004, binding him to not attacking in Afghanistan and getting rid of the ‘foreigners’ in return for amnesty. Nek Muhammad did not abide by the peace accord.

General Safdar Hussain told Zahid Hussain (Scorpion’s Tail page 71) he wanted the Americans trapped in Afghanistan. He was seen on TV dubbing Nek Muhammad a soldier of Islam. After Nek Muhammad was killed by a drone in June 2004, General Safdar Hussain signed another peace accord with Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud at Sararogha after giving him half a million dollars to pay back the bribe he and his commanders had got from al Qaeda before shifting loyalty for money. He, too, did not abide by the terms of the accord.

The ‘peace accord’ allowed Baitullah to kill the tribal elders and fill the vacuum thus created in Fata with his warriors. Musharraf then sent in the troops. Lal Masjid in Islamabad issued a fatwa to the Pakistan Army saying their funerals will be desacralised if they fought the Taliban. In 2005, the Pakistan Army lost 230 soldiers in South Waziristan.

There were other such ‘dubious’ peace deals with Sufi Muhammad in Malakand and Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan that helped the terrorists damage Pakistan instead of giving it the breathing space it needed.

Strangely, Musharraf reacted to all this by colluding rather than correcting. In hindsight, his conduct might look like a ‘double game’. He brought General Aurakzai back from retirement and made him governor NWFP.

Carey Schofield who was for a time attached to the combat formations of the Pakistan Army as a military historian, in her book Inside the Pakistan Army: A woman’s Experience on the Frontline of the War on Terror (Biteback Publishing, London 2011) gives us the following account on the authority of then corps commander Peshawar, General Hamid Khan: “In May 2006, the retired General Aurakzai was appointed Governor of the North West Frontier Province. In September he struck a deal, at a Grand Jirga in Miramshah, with the Utmanzai Wazirs. Maulana Gul Bahadur Khan and Maulana Sadiq Noor, key Taliban commanders in North Waziristan, were party to this deal. Jalaluddin Haqqani and Tahir Yuldashev were also present when it was signed. Under this agreement, known as the Waziristan Accord, the Taliban pledged to eject foreign fighters, prevent cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, stop running camps in the Fata and return seized weapons and pay reparation.

“In fact the deal only helped the militants. After South Waziristan, the militants shifted to North Waziristan and then on to Bajaur and Swat.

“In July-August 2007 there were attacks virtually every day, especially around Miramshah and Mir Ali. The Pakistan Army was losing control of territory, but Governor Aurakzai was determined to try to preserve the Waziristan Accord. In August in South Waziristan, the army was faced with the worst episode yet in its struggle against the militants” (p.175).

General Masood Aslam, who succeeded General Hamid Khan as corps commander, described the fiasco of Pakistan Army’s surrender to the Taliban on the road to Laddha Fort: “General Aurakzai began negotiating with the tribes, and the tribes began moving the goalposts. Finally, they produced a list of prisoners held by the government, saying until they were released, our soldiers would be held prisoner. Aurakzai took the list, and would not share it with the rest of us (p.176).

Aurakzai bent to the Taliban’s demands but finally failed to give Baitullah what he wanted: “In mid-December he resigned as governor. This was his way of telling Baitullah that he had played it straight, to persuade the tribes that he had behaved honourably. Otherwise, Baitullah would have gone after Aurakzai. He would have been a marked man. Aurakzai never wanted to discuss what he was doing with the army, with the bureaucrats or with politicians. Nobody could control him” (p.177).

In Orakzai, the Taliban can kill anyone at will. In her book, Taliban and anti-Taliban (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), Farhat Taj tells us that Orakzai Agency is the second agency after Kurram where there is Shia-Sunni tension. The Taliban decided to kill the Shia. Because of the ‘peace treaty’, Pakistan stood aside if not lent a hand, as the Shia were massacred. She writes: “The Ali Khels of Orakzai — the biggest tribe there — were forced into taking on the Taliban and were successful in getting the upper hand, but when the Political Agent told them they had been too harsh, they knew what was coming. The Ali Khel jirga was blown up with a suicide-bomber in October 2008, killing 50 Ali Khel tribal elders, and forcing the survivors to become IDPs. The Sikhs and the Shia, those still left behind, now pay jazia” (p.137).

A Pakistani ambassador who served in Kabul during the Taliban regime says Mullah Omar never agreed to anything Pakistan proposed. A Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon in her book ‘I’ is for Infidel: from Holy War to Holy Terror, 18 Years inside Afghanistan (Public Affairs, New York 2005) says ISI boss General Mehmood Ahmed actually told Mullah Omar to do just the opposite of what Pakistan was officially advising him (p.93).

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Max
    Oct 22, 2011 - 11:46PM

    These general officers (Safdar to Hamid Khan including Aurakzai should have been court martialed for their hypocrisy and not staying with their oath. Somebody should have noticed the side of the aisle they were. So if America is/was crying foul, are they wrong?
    Dancing with wolves and that also in swirls does not take anybody anywhere.


  • Oct 23, 2011 - 12:11AM

    What a weird situation,can anybody be trusted or negotiated with?.Why? waste presious life and money?It is a dead end,Pakistan usa India or Afghan are all losers,quit before it is too late and get trapped as they wanted American trapped,yes we are all traped in one way motel,called Dead End Afghanistan,’YOU GET IN, BUT CAN NOT GET OUT,FROM MOTEL NO ESCAPE’ Happy good will hunting,what a mess.May be Allah in His infinite Wisdom punishing us for our SIN.?


  • Ali Tanoli,
    Oct 23, 2011 - 12:51AM

    So confused so messed up we dont know who is right or rong and whom to believe and
    whom to ignore we dont what next?


  • Talha
    Oct 23, 2011 - 2:07AM

    A lot of the Generals we have are some of the biggest cowards produced in this part of the world.

    This is a fact and I am willing to say this to their faces, they know who they are.


  • Samir
    Oct 23, 2011 - 4:34AM

    But why would we care Sir as our “last great hope” Imran Khan thinks this is just a local Pashtun issue. We can keep claiming this is “someone else’s war” and we’ll keep losing ourselves. Our government has no spine. The people have had their backs broken and minorities are suffering. Recommend

  • Iron hand
    Oct 23, 2011 - 7:30AM

    Hard to decide who is more despicable, the Taliban or their enablers.


  • N
    Oct 23, 2011 - 9:36AM

    The top most involved in the ‘worst most’ conduct of duplicity.

    The USA is fighting the most retrogressive religious elements in Afghanistan. The defeat of these nefarious groups would bring us and our neighbours peace. But we not only house them, we are using them as strategic assets to kill and trap the US military. Our duplicity and shamelessness are boundless. We get the most aid from the USA, yet we hate them the most!


  • MarkH
    Oct 23, 2011 - 11:00AM

    No worries. The US doesn’t think it’ll work. It’s closer to “ok we’ll humor you just to say I told you so and get rid of the excuses for not doing something actually productive.”


  • romm
    Oct 23, 2011 - 11:47AM

    I agree with writer.


  • eeday
    Oct 23, 2011 - 2:59PM

    there is no option but to fight the pakistani taliban
    there is no option but to make a deal with the afghan taliban


  • rk singh
    Oct 23, 2011 - 4:09PM

    There is an American saying – if you cannot beat them, join em. I guess they are at this step now. Anyways sir, a great article again. Love to read your write-ups.


  • You Said It
    Oct 23, 2011 - 5:33PM

    Another outstanding article from one of only a handful of Pakistani journalists who really can think independently and have incisive insight. Unfortunately – just as a diamond highlights that all around it is dirt – for me this article only highlights the dearth of quality content in the Pakistani media.


  • No Nonsense
    Oct 23, 2011 - 7:22PM

    The writer is so well informed. But he has only presented the problem without offering any solution.Nor has any pf the “commentators.” Only one says we must fight the Taliban.But are we not already doing that? Anyone who offers any advice ought to be specific, please.


    Oct 23, 2011 - 8:39PM

    An eye opener article by the author. Its indeed tragic that minority community had to suffer a lot due comedy of blunders by Pak Generals and which also resulted in loss of sovereignty by the state over large parts Pakistan.


  • ali
    Oct 24, 2011 - 9:21PM

    @No Nonsense:

    There is a clear solution in the write up, you want writer to suggest a military strategy, well that is incorrect. Writer has clearly defined that the peace accord have not worked in the past – primarily due to militants turning away fro their commitments and Army should learn from the history of accords and should not be trapped yet again.
    Let there be peace accord remain enforced and you will see a large scale attack in a major town of the country. The only solution is to find them and kill them.
    Let there be no mercy for the terrorists and their sympathisers,


  • Jalal
    Oct 24, 2011 - 9:49PM

    its a misleading article and delibrately left some facts to make a case agaisnt the peace talks
    the level of authenticity can be questioned from a fact that he is presenting what a journalist said in her book about ISI chief as a proof, no wonder she will be quoting him for her future arugments.


  • yousaf
    Oct 25, 2011 - 2:53AM

    Kill,Kill,Kill…..,kill who?.Has any one deliberated why Gen.Aurakzai chose resignation rather than attack S.Waziristan before shouting kill ,court martial etc.For people of settled areas it is very difficult to envision the psyche of tribes living along and across Pak-Af border.Other historic factors aside the 90 years of British military adventurism in those areas with most of the soldiers being urdu or punjabi speaking has left an imprint on the minds of the tribal people that any one speaking any language other than pashto is an infidel.The events of last 30 years have further strengthened their belief,making them think that it is right for them to fight with non pashto speaking people and kill or get killed.If Pakistan wants insurrection to stop and peace to prevail in the area then let pashto speaking people who know how to hold a dialogue with tribal people talk to them.


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