08 Sep 2006

Why Pakistan Surrendered in Waziristan

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Today’s Wall Street Journal explains why Pakistan’s government found it necessary to make peace with the Taliban and other jihadis in the North-West Frontier Province.

Pakistan’s decision to end a military offensive against Islamic militants in the country’s troubled northwest frontier reflects mounting pressure on President Pervez Musharraf to deal with an even bigger security problem: a growing rebellion in the resource-rich province of Baluchistan.

Political analysts say Gen. Musharraf, boxed in by a pair of increasingly costly conflicts, has been forced to focus on the more important political threat to his government — the Baluch separatist movement — even if it means U.S.-led forces across a porous border in Afghanistan could pay a price for the Pakistani military’s withdrawal from the northwest region of Waziristan.

Under a cease-fire agreement struck this week between tribal chieftains and the military, a three-year government campaign against Islamic militants in Waziristan ended. The military released hundreds of prisoners taken in the rugged tribal area and granted amnesty to others, including some with known links to al Qaeda. Soldiers have vacated advance outposts in the region and relocated to a nearby army camp, according to a senior military official…

One of the brokers of the deal was a retired general now serving as governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, which includes Waziristan. Gov. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai, who comes from a tribal area, argued that the military’s campaign in Waziristan had been counterproductive. “Extremism is more a mind-set,” concurred Pakistan’s senior military spokesman, Gen. Shaukat Sultan. “You don’t open up every mind through use of force.”

In Baluchistan, meanwhile, the military’s drive to put down a separatist rebellion has intensified, sparking violent protests in the region and beyond, which grew after separatist leader Akbar Khan Bugti was killed by security forces late last month. Baluch nationalists have been demanding greater political autonomy from Islamabad and a bigger share of the region’s resources, which include large natural-gas reserves.

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