Sunday, February 24, 2008

Taliban Facilitated Elections in Waziristan!

Militant help

In North Waziristan, the government sought the help of the militants to conduct peaceful polls
By Mushtaq Yusufzai

The Taliban in North Waziristan tribal agency facilitated the Feb 18 polling, where the tribespeople, unlike the rest of the tribal regions, evinced a keen interest in exercising their right to vote.
Almost a day earlier, in the militants-dominated North Waziristan Agency, the government had struck another peace deal with militants with the hope of restoring peace to the militancy-stricken tribal region.
In the peace deal, the government and tribal militants, who prefer to be called Taliban, had pledged to work together in future for maintenance of peace and resolving disputes.
The militants, on Dec 17, 2007, had announced a unilateral ceasefire and then extended it almost five times when the government reciprocated accordingly.
A senior militant commander on condition of anonymity said that the peace truce was signed in the grand 'jirga' where the militant commanders, tribal elders as well as government officials were present. He said that it was almost the same agreement which had been signed on Sep 5, 2006, between them and the government.
The government had almost made up its mind to reschedule polls in the adjacent North Waziristan after postponing the election on NA-42 in South Waziristan due to the mass migration of the Mahsud tribespeople to distant Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and other parts of the country as a result of clashes between security forces and Baitullah Mahsud-led militants.
Later, the government announced to conduct elections in North Waziristan but declared all the polling stations there the 'most sensitive' ones and suggested extraordinary security measures for holding free and fair polls.
Keeping in view the security concerns in the region, the government sought the help of the militants in conducting the election in a peaceful manner.
A senior government official said that the task was given to the Taliban after the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and Khasadar force or tribal police personnel expressed their reluctance to provide security to the polling staff deputed in the remote and the most sensitive areas.
Tribespeople from parts of North Waziristan told TNS that not a single security personnel was sighted in almost all the 10 subdivisions of the volatile tribal region, including Miramshah, Mirali, Shawal, Data Khel, Ghulam Khan, Spinwam, Shawa, Dosali, Razmak and Garyum in the election day. Residents in Miramshah, North Waziristan's regional headquarters, said that militants were the ones who conducted the polls and provided security to the voters.
People felt it was primarily that reason, the presence of Taliban, which encouraged the already terrified tribesmen to come out of their homes and cast their votes.
"It seemed more like jubilation here. The people enthusiastically participated in elections and there were no signs of fear as the well-armed militants were deployed everywhere in and outside the polling stations," said Mohammad Salimullah, a tribesman while talking to the TNS by telephone from Miramshah.
The residents said that they felt a threat from the militants before the elections, but when learnt that they themselves were part of the game then everyone came to the polling station.
"It was the day of the militants and they proved themselves more capable than those who were supposed to do the job," said Haji Gul Halim, a resident of Dande Darpakhel town, near Miramshah.
During the polling, witnesses said, heavily armed militants were seen patrolling the streets and thoroughly searching voters before entering the polling stations.
"In some of the polling stations, militants, even briefly detained people for allegedly violating the Taliban's code of conduct which they had set for the election," said Mohammad Rahman in Mirali town, the second biggest town of the agency.
He, however, added that the Taliban were later seen releasing the detainees and giving them advice to help the people elected a sincere and pious representative. Interestingly, when the polls finished, militants informed the local political authorities that their job was finished and that they should collect the ballot boxes.
"The ballot boxes were then taken in armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to Miramshah and the name of the successful candidate was announced," said a government official, but wished not to be named.
16 candidates were contesting the election for the lone National Assembly seat of North Waziristan Agency (NA-40). Except for a few, like PML-Q's Ajmal Khan, who served as federal minister in the past, and an
independent candidate Abdul Qayyum, the majority of the contestants belonged to Maulana Fazlur Rahman's Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), but only Maulana Nek Zaman, a former pro-MMA MNA from North Waziristan, was JUI-F nominee on NA-40.
The remaining candidates, including Aurangzeb, Haji Kamran Khan, Fazal Subhan, Mufti Sadeequllah and Nisar Ali were JUI-F dissidents and decided to contest when the party refused their nomination for the election.
Some of them are considered to be very close to the militants, including Abdullah Shah, who belongs to a banned outfit Al-Rashid Trust, Haji Kamran Khan and a few others. Now some of the losing candidates had started raising questions over this unique trend of involving militants to hold elections.
They have accused the government of allowing militants to help elect their blue-eyed candidate, Haji Kamran Khan in the polls.
They said that the militants organised a huge rally in support of the winning candidate and fired shots in the air when Kamran Khan was declared the winner.
(Coutesy The News)
My Comment: This report of cooperation between Taliban and the Government of Pakistan in Waziristan suggests that if there is enough will for peaceful co-existance, peace might not be so elusive an ideal, after all. Indeed, it suggests that while US and Taliban may remain irreconcilable, the same may not be true for Pakistan and Taliban. In the interests of the people, both parties can, and should, arrive at some reconciliation. Pakistani state, on the other hand, would do well to learn from history and keep itself out of that difficult region; above all, it would do well to spill less blood, there and everywhere else.


Paagal Insaan! said...

Do you mean Taliban and Pakistan should co-exist peacefully to take on the US together?
Do you suggest Pakistan then support the Taliban in their war on America like we now support the US in her war on terror?
If peace is the ultimate objective, why not extend the truce to the US and tell then we will not target her citizens and interests worldwide?

Anonymous said...

sounds fine... peace for all, including the americans... why not... the problem is that the Americans aren't in a mood for negotiations... being a global power they are in no mood for give-and-take politics; they have military might behind them and they will settle for nothing less than the complete elimination of the so-called terrorist elements.