WASHINGTON DC, Aug 9, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Thousands attend funeral of militants in Waziristan July 16, in a show of anti-US feelings

A Taliban Government in Pakistan, Set up With Musharraf's Help

By Khawar Mehdi Rizvi

WASHINGTON, August 9: Despite tall claims of eliminating Al-Qaeda from the troubled Northern areas, Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf has, in practice, handed over the once hotbed of foreign militants, the South Waziristan Agency, to a former Taliban Commander, until recently a wanted terrorist by the Army.

Baitullah Mahsood, who had a head money of several hundred thousand rupees is now running his own Government in the Agency, and in Taliban style.

And to facilitate ‘Commander’ Baitullah Mahsood, General Musharraf has withdrawn all Pakistan Army troops from the area Under Mahsood’s control.

This is another episode of the many double games being played by General Musharraf with the Western world and specially the US which is providing millions of dollars to the Pakistan Army to control and eliminate these terrorists. Instead, Musharraf is not only pocketing the money, he is allowing declared terrorists to return to power.

“The Taliban militia is back in power, now inside Pakistan and is transforming the area into its fiefdom,” a tribal elder told this correspondent from Dera Ismail Khan on telephone. The elder, who wanted to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, described the situation in the agency as “atrocious” like it was in pre-September 2001 Afghanistan, under the Taliban rule.

Baitullah Mahsood has banned, television, satellite dishes, music and videos declaring them un-Islamic. Kids cannot play cricket as it is described as the game of infidels. Shops are forced to close during the prayer timings, and those who try to skip the prayers are forced to proceed to the mosques.

Women have been asked not to dress other than the local traditional cloths. Common people are asked to contact the local Taliban commander to resolve their personal disputes. Groups of Taliban carrying AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers are being sent to remote villages with the orders of their hard line leaders. These Taliban call jirgas in village mosques and do not tolerate defiance.

Warnings have also been issued to criminals. “Any one found involved in a crime including theft, robbery or drug trade will face cutting of the hand, the punishment prescribed in Sharia laws.” There are reports that some of the criminals were arrested, paraded in public and taken away to unknown place.

What has stunned the local population is the sudden transformation of fortunes of the former Taliban leaders and supporters and how those who were until recently hunted by the Pakistan Army for months, had gained legitimacy and returned to power.

The Army operation in South Waziristan had claimed hundreds of lives and Pakistan Army had suffered heavy casualties as well. The summer operation last year caused losses of millions in damaged or destroyed property alone. Thousands of inhabitants were displaced from their native villages and are still forced to live in tough conditions elsewhere, either in Tribal Areas or adjacent cities of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.

Life marginally started improving in Mahsood territories of South Waziristan Agency when Baitullah and his followers entered into a peace dialogue with the Pakistan Army, responding to a general amnesty offered by General Musharraf. A ceasefire was announced on February the 2nd this year in a crowded signing ceremony attended by Corps Commander Peshawar and Baitullah Mahsood

Both sides stopped attacking each other. Army started pulling back the troops as displaced locals started returning to their homes. Tribal leaders guaranteed law and order in their part of agency. Tribesmen also gave a commitment not to provide shelter to illegal foreigners and to hand over wanted individuals to authorities. Earlier the military authorities had made a similar agreement with Taliban and Al-Qaeda supporters from Wazir Tribes.

Waziri militants were also given millions of rupees that they demanded to pay back their Al-Qaeda masters, the advance they had taken to resist the Army operation. In an indirect way, Pakistan Army paid millions to Al-Qaeda which could be used at other places, at another time.

But all this is now coming to a naught. According to tribal sources despite the agreement with the Pakistan Army, Baitullah Mahsood helped the most wanted militant in Waziristan, the fugitive and defiant Abdullah Mahsood, to escape from South Waziristan

Abdullah, a returnee of Guantanamo Bay, was the 1st among Mahsoods who joined the Al Qaeda bands to organize armed attacks against the Army. He was also wanted for the kidnapping of the Chinese engineers. One engineer was killed during the rescue operation last year.

Under the Administration of Baitullah Mahsood, targeted killings of many of those who helped the Pakistan Army during the summer operation have been reported. More than 36 such killings have been witnessed only in South Waziristan and many others have received warnings.

The same trend was observed in North Waziristan where bodies of victims were found on road side or deserted places with messages that “those who will spy for infidel Americans will meet this fate.” The killers did not even hide their identities but authorities did not arrest a single person.

Baitullah Mahsood is gaining power with the help of the Army. Abdullah Mahsood is at large. Al Qaeda has got its millions back to organize further terrorism in Northern Pakistan. Some of the wanted foreign militants have now been spotted in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan.

But General Musharraf keeps claiming victories against Al-Qaeda and terrorists. He even had the audacity to declare that Pakistan had been cleansed of Al-Qaeda.

Who is he trying to fool is obvious but here in Washington, those who deal with Pakistan and those who are monitoring the country at US outposts, know the General’s game and they are just waiting for the right time to get even.

The writer is the Pakistani journalist who was arrested by Pakistan Army along with two French journalists on bogus charges of faking a video filming of a militant training camp. He later left Pakistan and is now based in Washington DC.

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