The ceasefire is applicable not only to the North and South
Waziristan, but to all the seven agencies of Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Swat valley, which was
overrun by radical elements in the recent past.
The government seems to have accepted the ceasefire without
openly declaring it, as it needed some breathing space.
The insurgency is spreading to newer regions in North West
Frontier Province (NWFP), and the pitched battles fought in
Kohat and Bannu and the manner in which arms and ammunition,
meant for security forces, have been snatched by the militants
shows their growing strength. And in a growing sign of their
confidence and ability to take on the security forces, the
militants have also attacked fortified garrisons in Waziristan
and captured at least three of them.
The security forces were keen on a truce because not only
were they overstretched, but also because the rank and file at
lower levels are apparently unconvinced about the cause and
harbour latent sympathy for their opponents. This probably
explains the large-scale surrender by security personnel, in
many cases with arms and ammunition.
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The government also needed a tactical pause to facilitate
electioneering, on which the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and
other militant activities have cast a long shadow. The usual
euphoria and high-pitched campaign has been missing from the
electioneering till now. The government, under immense external
pressure to ensure that the February 18, 2008 elections are
credible, is extremely keen that some semblance of peace returns
to Pakistan, in the hope that electioneering would pick up and
enable the international observers to certify elections as
On the other hand, the militants too needed a tactical
breather. They were tired of fighting the army, the
assassination of Benazir had created a popular backlash, and the
public sympathy for their cause had taken a beating. The recent
strikes on militant hideouts by the American unmanned aerial
vehicles and Pakistani armed forces, resulting in the
elimination of some senior commanders of Taliban and al-Qaeda,
indicate that the intelligence agencies have belatedly succeeded
in infiltrating the militant ranks. The militants are therefore
keen to reorganise themselves to seal the information leaks.
But the ceasefire is unlikely to usher in a long-term peace.
Though details are sketchy at the moment, it is reasonable to
expect that the government yielded a lot of ground. Perhaps
there is an understanding, similar to the one reached during the
earlier deal when the militants were permitted complete freedom
and allowed to extend their influence in Waziristan.
The government in any case is already bowing before the
militants by trying to promulgate Shariah regulations in Dir
Upper, Dir Lower, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Malakand and Chitral,
the seven districts of the NWFP. The regulations rename judges
as Qazis and takes away the right of the local population to
appeal in the Peshawar High Court or the Supreme Court against
the judgment of the Shariah courts being established.
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This is an indication about the type of the deal that the
current interim government seems to have negotiated with the
Taliban at the behest of the security forces.
But such measures will only increase the influence of the
fundamentalist forces and accentuate the process of
radicalisation of society. The ceasefire will enable the
militants to reinforce their ranks and reorganise their cadres.
In a feudal society like Pakistan, the fact that the government
has been brought to the negotiating table gives them a modicum
of respectability and enhances their stature as a fighting
force. Moreover, as in the past, such deals are not going to
stop Taliban attacks across the Durand Line in Afghanistan, and
may result in reprisal attacks by the NATO, Afghan or the US
troops, which may reignite the fires. At best, the Pakistan
government might seek reprieve from the US till the polling is
As such clashes are inevitable, is it prudent to give the
militants a breather, to recoup and reorganise?
Moreover, this ceasefire does not stop militants from
carrying out attacks across rest of Pakistan. In fact it might
even allow them to divert resources that were tied up in the
tribal areas to carry out strikes on security forces across
other parts of Pakistan. This period is also likely to result
in the elimination of “agents of security forces” in the FATA
and Swat Valley, further discouraging the local population from
cooperating with the security forces.
It would therefore be correct to conclude that the new
ceasefire in FATA may reduce the level of violence in parts of
Pakistan’s Pakhtoon belt for a few days. But in the long-term,
it will inflict a severe blow to the “War on Terror” in the
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