New York, May 23 : The recent peace pact between the Government of Pakistan and the pro-Taliban tribal elders in the Swat region of NWFP might be quite different from those of the past, "because the authorities had an upper hand in the talks", a former US State Department specialist on South Asia has said.
He said that the peace pact has been signed not with the militants but with the tribal elders to hold the latter accountable for enforcing the agreement.
"There is a potentially significant difference because the army - or the Pakistani government - claims that by negotiating with tribal leaders, not militants, they can hold these tribal leaders accountable for enforcing the agreement and make them, the tribal leaders crack down on the militants who are among them," the Dawn quoted Daniel Markey, a fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, as saying in an interview.
Markey, who recently visited Pakistan, said: "One of the differences is that this time the Pakistani army has really moved into the area in force and enforced an economic blockade against Mehsud tribes before starting negotiations. It has inflicted various punishments on some of the tribal villages to demonstrate that the army, in fact, has the upper hand."
However, he said that the Bush administration should be concerned about the talks, noting that "according to NATO commanders as well as the US government, there has been a spike in terms of cross-border infiltration from Pakistan into Afghanistan in recent weeks and months, as compared to last year".
Markey added: "It does appear that whatever is happening on the Pakistani side of the border, it is not helping matters in Afghanistan. The kind of deal that we're seeing coming together - and it hasn't quite been finalised between the Pakistani government, and basically that means the Pakistani military with a bit of a civilian face to it, and the Mehsud tribes (in South Waziristan) - is similar to the sort of deals we've seen in the past."
"Those had pretty much always ended poorly. They produced temporary ceasefires that haven't done all that much to end movement into Afghanistan... So it's similar to that, but this time there may be some significant differences and this is something the Pakistani army is taking pains to try to point out," he further said.
Among the militants Baitullah Mehsud's name was the foremost. "(However) there are other leaders, people who have gained leadership either through hereditary titles or because they are popular representatives of the wider tribe, who would be normal negotiating partners with the Pakistani army under these conditions. Those are the leaders whom the Pakistani government claims to be working with to hammer out a deal. Those are the leaders who would be held responsible for making sure people like Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are kept in line if a deal is worked out," he said while explaining the relations between the tribal alders and militants.