MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) -Pro-Taliban militants Tuesday rebuffed the Pakistani government’s efforts to save a peace deal in a tense tribal area, and blew up two security checkpoints in a sign of defiance.
Rebels handed out pamphlets from a car overnight in North Waziristan saying that they had torn up the 10-month-old pact because the government had set up new checkposts and failed to pay compensation for army operations.
The move has increased security fears after suicide bombers in nearby areas killed 70 people at the weekend, in apparent retaliation for the military’s crushing of an uprising at the Red Mosque in Islamabad last week.
“We agreed on the peace deal with the government for the protection of the people. Now we are breaking the peace agreement again in favour of the people,” said the leaflet, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
The statement, signed by the Taliban Shura (council), warned tribal paramilitary forces and traders supplying the army not to cooperate with government forces or “otherwise they are also our targets.”
It asked tribal elders and others “not to have jirgas (meetings) with the government; if not, then they will be responsible.”
Late Monday a paramilitary checkpost was destroyed by a blast in the central bazaar of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, and hours later another was blown up near a government building.
There were no casualties, officials said.
Thousands of residents have already fled the area fearing further violence in the region, where militants have blown up music and barber shops in an attempt to enforce Islamic law.
Pakistani authorities have made intense efforts to shore up the peace accord since the Taliban pulled out on Saturday, knowing that without it, they risk fresh violence in a region thought to contain many militants.
They sent two government representatives to the area on Monday but they came back empty-handed to Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, where matters in the neighbouring tribal zone are overseen.
“We are still hopeful the peace deal will stay intact and efforts are under way,” said a senior official at the secretariat of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, as the region is formally known.
“The Taliban have refused to reinstate the accord until the government withdraws all the checkposts and pays compensation money to those whose houses and seminaries were destroyed during operations,” the official said.
Local sources said the government had set up 10 checkpoints in and around Miranshah earlier this month during the Red Mosque crisis.
Under the September peace deal — heavily criticised by Washington and Kabul — the militants had vowed to stop cross-border attacks in war-torn Afghanistan and hunt down foreign insurgents hiding in the lawless mountain areas.
The United States has said that North Waziristan and other parts of the lawless, ethnic Pashtun tribal belt have become a base for Osama bin Laden’s revived Al-Qaeda network.
The US State Department said on Monday that it may introduce safeguards to ensure that 750 million dollars in US aid being poured into the tribal areas does not fall into the wrong hands.