May 15, 2008

Govt, Mehsud militants swap prisoners

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 2:20 am
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MAY 15, 2008



Updated at  

By our correspondent

PESHAWAR: Amid denials by the authorities concerned, the government and the Baitullah Mehsud-led militants swapped prisoners � 25 suspected militants and 12 security personnel � in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA) on Wednesday.

A Jirga had earlier decided that the government would release 55 militants while the militants would set free 10 security personnel and government officials. The top military spokesman, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, who is also the ISPR DG, when reached by telephone confirmed the release of five Army soldiers and seven FC men.

However, he said he was not aware of further details of the reported peace agreement between the government and the militants. �Actually, the government is involved in negotiations with the militants and that�s why the people in the government may be aware of the details decided by the Jirga,� remarked the military spokesman.

Asked how many soldiers were still in the militants� custody, Gen Abbas said, �Yes, there are still some soldiers in their custody, and I hope they will also be released very soon.� Among the released soldiers, five belonged to the Pakistan Army while the rest were serving under the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), kidnapped by militants from South Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand agencies, Darra Adamkhel and Swat.

The five Army men including three officers were identified as Captain Sachal, Capt Faisal, Capt Safdar, Lance Naik Munsif Khan and Sepoy Din Mohammad. Similarly, the seven FC personnel set free by militants were Lance Naik Jan Khan Afridi, Lance Naik Zulfiqar Khan Tori, Lance Naik, Shabbir Hussain, Sepoy Mohammad, Sepoy Naeem Bhittani and Sepoy Kalimullah Bhittani.

Among the released militants, five each belonged to Bajaur, Mohmand, Swat and the remaining were Mehsud tribal militants, hailing from South Waziristan. A Jirga member said the government, in the next phase, would release another 30 militants while the Taliban would set free 15 security personnel.

Similarly, he said the government had already accepted major demands of the militants, including the removal of all roadside checkpoints, withdrawal of the Pakistan Army from the tribal areas, Darra Adamkhel and Swat, compensation to the affected people and release of all the suspected militants held during the military operations.

He said the government had also started calling back regular Army troops from hilltops in the Mehsud-inhabited areas like Ladha, Makeen and Mohammad Nawaz Kot to Spinkai Raghzai town near Jandola in Frontier Region of Tank.

According to the understanding or verbal agreement, the sources said the government would start the troop withdrawal on May 16 from Spinkai Raghzai, which would be completed by May 19.

The Jirga members said though there was no written agreement as the government was not in its favour, yet the two sides had agreed that it should be considered as peace agreement between them.

Meanwhile, a tribal Jirga, which had been involved in a series of hectic negotiations between the government and the tribal militants, surprisingly brought together the erstwhile rivals at a totally unexpected venue of Razmak, North Waziristan tribal agency, to sign yet another peace agreement for promotion of peace in the militancy-torn tribal regions and the Swat district.

The Pakistan Army has huge presence in Razmak, a picturesque mountainous spot, situated on the border between South and North Waziristan tribal regions. The Jirga was earlier scheduled to be held in Makeen, South Waziristan, but later due to reasons best known to the authorities concerned, the venue was changed and the Jirga members and prisoners were taken to Razmak in military choppers.

Again, the two pro-militants tribal elders-cum-clerics � Haji Ikramuddin and Malik Amir Mohammad � played a pivotal role in the peace agreement between the two sides. The two Mehsud elders had already played a key role in the release of 300 Pakistan Army soldiers, kidnapped by Baitullah Mehsud from Ladha, South Waziristan.

Besides, some of the key players in the peace truce were Afghan Taliban commanders, but they wanted to remain behind the scene. Senior military official and government people represented the government side while Baitullah Mehsud had sent his deputy commander Maulvi Noor Said and a few other senior commanders to represent him in the crucial Jirga meeting.

Other representatives of Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella organisation of all the militant groups operating in the seven tribal regions and 24 settled districts of the NWFP, were also present on the occasion.


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