Pakistan modifies peace pact with militants under US pressure: report

June 15th, 2008 - 3:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, June 15 (IANS) The Pakistani government has modified, under US pressure, a proposed peace pact with militants in the country’s restive northwest to prevent cross-border activities on the frontier with Afghanistan, a media report Sunday said. The revised draft says the Mehsud tribe, including the Taliban, would not violate Pakistani and Islamic laws “within the country, across the border and abroad”, Dawn reported, in an article titled “‘US pressure’ forces changes in pact draft”.

“We the Mehsud tribe, including the Taliban, will not violate the laws of Islam and Pakistan within the country, across the border and abroad,” a carefully structured new clause in the proposed peace agreement said.

The head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, had said last month that Islam did not recognise borders and waging jihad against foreign occupation forces was obligatory on all Muslims.

Another new clause requires the Mehsud tribe to cough up Rs.5 million within two months of signing the peace agreement as payback for the losses suffered by the government both in terms of men and material.

Dawn quoted a senior government official as saying the money would be used to rebuild the Sara Rogha fort.

Hundreds of militants had attacked the British-era fort on the night of Jan 16, killing 22 paramilitary troopers and taking several others hostage. The only fort located inside the inhospitable Mehsud territory was later dynamited and virtually razed to the ground.

“This may not be a big amount but we want to establish a principle; the government is asked to pay compensation for the losses made to the life and property of tribal people, but they (militants) too should pay up for the losses suffered by the government,” the official said.

In the revised draft agreement, the clause pertaining to the presence of foreign militants in Mehsud territory has also been modified.

The previous draft required the Mehsuds to expel foreign militants within one month of signing the peace agreement, with the period extendable to two months if conditions so demanded.

The revised draft says the expulsions would commence soon after the signing of the peace agreement and the whole process would be completed within two months. A reprieve of a further two months could be granted if required.

The official said the government had given the go-ahead to the tribal interlocutors and if an understanding was achieved, the signing could take place as early as next week.

The administrator of South Waziristan tribal region and elders of the three main Mehsud sub-tribes would sign the peace agreement.

The two sides have already implemented some terms of the deal. These include the pullback of Pakistani troops, a prisoner swap and the lifting of road blockades to enable hundreds of thousands of displaced Mehsuds to return to their homes.

“This, apparently, is the reason why two clauses that required the two sides to exchange prisoners and called for the ‘gradual withdrawal’ of security forces have been omitted from the revised draft,” Dawn said.

According to the newspaper: “The government was contemplating more or less similar peace agreements with tribes in Bajaur and Mohmand tribal regions and the semi-autonomous Frontier Regions of Darra Adamkhel.

“The drafts of the proposed agreements have been under discussion and government officials are hopeful that these could be ready for signature in two weeks,” Dawn added.

The US is known to be unhappy with the peace deals, saying the Pakistani government is giving away more than it will receive.

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