Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Taliban militias in Pakistan have set up offices, introduced taxes and taken control of justice in the tribal agency of North Waziristan, where last month the government signed a peace agreement with militants.

In violation of the agreement, a Taliban shura, or council, distributed pamphlets of its policies while militants patrolled the area’s streets. They have already killed numerous “American spies.”

A “tax schedule” detailed how businesses are liable for paying charges to the Taliban. Trucks entering the agency will pay for a six-month pass, and gas-pump owners will have to make contributions to the Taliban shura. The taxes were described as a “donation” in the pamphlet.

The deal signed by the government on Sept. 5 stipulated that al Qaeda fighters were to be expelled from North Waziristan, and pro-Taliban militants were not to run a “parallel administration” or take part in fighting against coalition forces across the border. In return, Pakistani forces, who had been fighting local militants over the summer, withdrew from combat. The army retained the right to carry out strikes in the area if militants did not adhere to the deal.

But it was later discovered by Pakistani journalists that the deal was signed with wanted militants and not with tribal elders, as was officially claimed. Pakistani officials hoped the deal would empower tribal elders to control militants in their region, but an estimated 120 of them have been killed in the past year.

After the withdrawal of the army, a power vacuum was filled by mullahs and their long-haired, bearded, weapon-toting militants. According to Pakistani reporters, some of the militants wear badges that read: “Appointed by the office of the Taliban, the mujahedeen of the North Waziristan Agency.”

Power is now in the hands of a so-called “mullahcracy” and people who Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf recently dismissed as hashish-smoking thugs who use the Taliban’s mantle to coerce locals.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani, a member of North Waziristan’s Taliban shura, said his followers were abiding by the pact. But he said they still offered “moral support” to those fighting in Afghanistan.

“There is no doubt that we support this jihad against infidels, against these Christians who have invaded a Muslim land,” he said.

Instead of crossing from Waziristan, fighters continue to cross into Afghanistan from other areas.

“If you can’t go into Afghanistan from Waziristan, you can go from other areas. There are many, many other ways to go,” a fighter from North Waziristan told Reuters news agency.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said militant activity has increased 300 percent in the border regions since the pact was signed.

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