New York, Apr 25: The Pakistan government is learnt to have formulated a 15-point accord which calls upon the militants operating in the country's tribal areas to immediately end militant activity. The 15-point draft accord also talks about exchange of prisoners in return for the gradual withdrawal of the Pakistani military from part of the tribal region of South Waziristan.
The draft accord is currently being negotiated by the government through tribal elders, and militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, whom the Musharraf regime had linked with Benazir Bhutto's assassination. The accord orders Mehsud's fighters to cease their activities in the tribal regions as well as the adjoining North-West Frontier Province, warning of strict punishment for any violations.
Meanwhile, American and Afghan officials are said to be skeptical about any such deal if negotiated through Mehsud, as they blame past accords for allowing the Taliban and al Qaeda to regroup, fortify their ties and use Pakistan as a base to plot attacks here and abroad.
"We have seen the agreements they have made before, and they do not work," the New York Times quoted one American official as saying while referring to an agreement in North Waziristan in September 2006, which was blamed for strengthening the militants and a surge in cross-border attacks against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "We are concerned about it, and what we encourage them to do is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any security or military operations that are ongoing in order to help prevent a safe haven for terrorists there," she said while referring to the possibility of the accord.
Though Musharraf too negotiated with the militants, he used the military in the tribal areas in a way that many Pakistanis criticized as heavy-handed, losing hundreds of Pakistani troops in the fighting. The military operations and his alliance with the United States in fighting terrorism have grown deeply unpopular.
The US has consistently discouraged negotiations with militants, which US Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte had described as "irreconcilable elements" during a visit to Pakistan in March. "I don't see how you can talk with those kinds of people," he had said.
Mehsud, perhaps Pakistan's most notorious militant, leads an umbrella group of the militants in the border areas, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Pakistan's previous government and American officials have said a communications intercept linked him to Bhutto's assassination, and a Pakistani court has charged Mehsud in absentia with planning it.
However, Asif Ali Zardari and other members of her party have cast doubt on the previous government's version of events. PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar called the cease-fire announcement by Mehsud a "welcome development," but said that the negotiations were continuing. "No deal has been finalized," the paper quoted him as saying.
Regarding Mehsud's alleged involvement in Bhutto's assassination, he said the "Pakistan Peoples Party had not named Baitullah Mehsud" as being responsible for her attack.