Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pakistan: Baitullah Mehsud declares unilateral ceasefire

AKA hudna. I call bull shi& on this one.

Tehrik-i-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud declared a unilateral ceasefire in South Waziristan on Wednesday after the security forces started vacating positions in some key places.“Since the army has minimised the scale of operations, the Taliban shura decided to halt activities across the country for an indefinite period,” Maulvi Umar, Mr Mehsud’s spokesman, told Dawn by phone.“No, there is no secret deal with the government. This is our unilateral decision,” the spokesman said in reply to a question whether militants had struck a fresh deal with the security forces.Mr Umar said the shura meeting that endorsed the truce was held at a secret place.

Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said: “The Army has not received any formal announcement regarding a ceasefire. Troops have not stopped the operation and it will continue till all strategic objectives are achieved. “We are waiting and monitoring the situation. It could be a strategic move by the militants.”In reply to a question about the army’s objectives, he said all hideouts and positions of the militants would be wiped out. Sources said the army had started vacating positions in several areas, including Nawaz Kot and Kotkai, which had been captured after a pitched battle.

Grand jirga called to negotiate with terrorists - oops, I mean militants.

The government has decided to form a “grand jirga” to work out a peace agreement with tribal leaders in Waziristan. Among the chiefs the administration plans to negotiate with is Baitullah Mehsud.

“The government, in collaboration with a jirga consisting of influential and local people from the Fata and the Frontier regions, would soon take measures for sustainable peace in the tribal areas,” caretaker Interior Minister Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Nawaz Khan told journalists during a briefing.

“The demand of initiating a peace process was made by the Mehsuds, who are on the run after being crushed by the security forces in Waziristan,” he added. The minister told Dawn the resilience of the security forces had forced the militants to retreat. “Definitely there should be a stage when the militant groups are bound under an agreement that they would not become a threat to the country and its people.”

He said in Waziristan, Fata and Swat, the government had broken the back of militants. “They are on the run now.”Sources said security forces had cut off the supply line of Mehsuds from three sides — Jandulla, Razmak and Wana.The interior minister said the jirga would consist of representatives from all tribes, including Mehsud, and political leaders, who would act as guarantors if an agreement were clinched.

He said the tribals had entered into a number of peace agreements in the past, but they violated them.