top of page
  • Writer's pictureStudentGuiders

An Assessment of Pakistan’s Peace Agreements with militants in waziristan (2004-2008)by Hassan Abba

An Assessment of Pakistan’s Peace Agreements with militants in waziristan (2004-2008) by Hassan Abbas In the aftermath of U.S. and allied forces’ military campaign in Afghanistan beginning in late 2001, many Afghan, Central Asian, and Arab militants led from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Local Pashtun tribesmen readily offered them sanctuary, based upon their relationships dating back to the anti-Soviet Afghan “jihad” years, and as per the norms of Pashtunwali.1 Small numbers of Pakistani soldiers on the border could neither halt the inlow of these militants nor curb the outlow of Pashtuns who felt duty-bound to go toward Kabul to rescue their brethren during the U.S.-led campaign. This cross-border movement pattern was predictable in light of historical precedents (e.g., Pashtun movement during Durrani rule and the Nadir Shah era) and given that many Pashtun tribes straddle the Durand line that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan.2 Such a scenario should have been taken into consideration while the military operation was planned. Under U.S. pressure, Pakistan’s then-president Pervez Musharraf moved a larger segment of troops to FATA in 2003-2004 to counter the inlux of foreign ighters, particularly in North and South Waziristan, FATA’s two most volatile agencies. These military units were supported by the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force raised from among FATA tribes which has existed

since the era of British rule. The military operations in Waziristan clearly failed to subdue tribes. Having given a very tough time to the Pakistani army, which suffered heavy casualties in the process, the newly empowered groups (mostly Pakistani tribesmen and militants, in collaboration with small contingents of Arab and Central Asian warriors) started altering the traditional power balance in the area: They shifted authority and control from tribal elders (the hereditary malik system) to young religious radicals. Behind religious slogans, class battles were also at play. For the past several years, there have been local demands for drastic reforms in the tribal structure against the corrupt and autocratic malik system, as maliks were seen as elitist. Historically, maliks have been responsible for distributing inancial support to those who remain loyal to the status quo and keep supporting the government of Pakistan. Consequently, when local Taliban, inluenced by Afghan Taliban and Arab ighters, rose against the malik system and the monopoly of tribal chiefs, they were supported by many in the tribal region.3

Inside Afghanistan, the Western nation-building project’s inadequacies and limitations led to a resurgence of Taliban in various parts of the Pashtun-dominated south. On the Pakistani side, meanwhile, the Tehrik-iTaliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged on the scene in late 2007, and since then has wreaked havoc through a series of suicide attacks and bombings in major urban centers. The spillover effect of Talibanization in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) was evident from extremism and militancy in the Swat Valley and other parts of the NWFP. Beginning in May 2009, Pakistan’s army, with support from the newly-formed democratic governments in NWFP and Islamabad, irst moved against militants in NWFP’s Swat district with signiicant irepower and in November 2009 expanded the operation to FATA’s South Waziristan agency. Militants in Swat as well as South Waziristan received serious setbacks during these operations, though in both cases many escaped to mountains in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas.

The 2009 military operation against the Taliban in Swat and FATA is believed to be the irst sustained and effective action on Pakistan’s part, after it felt that its own stability was endangered by the terrorist designs of native Taliban elements. In this context, it is useful to study the various “peace deals” that Pakistan negotiated with militants in FATA under President Musharraf during the 2004-2008 timeframe. The apparent purpose of these deals was to prevent the conlict zone from expanding, and to avoid a head-on collision with militants, many of whom had good working relations with the security forces in the past. These objectives were not achieved; in fact, the deals proved counterproductive. Pakistani security analysts, however, maintain that a negotiated resolution of conlict is better than military confrontation. It is worth analyzing these agreements to draw lessons about the future course of action in FATA—both for Pakistan, and for U.S. counterinsurgency efforts.

Military CaMpaigns and “pEaCE dEals”

Pakistan’s military launched Operation Meezan (Balance) in 2002, thus entering FATA for the irst time since the country’s independence in 1947.4 Roughly 25,000 military and paramilitary troops were deployed to FATA at the time. The second phase of deployment and military action began in March 2004, reportedly under intense U.S. pressure, when Pakistan’s army launched the Kalusha operation near the Wana area in South Waziristan.5 It was meant to be a surgical operation targeting militant hideouts, but turned out to be an utter failure when militants responded swiftly and strongly. This was an unexpected blow to security forces, which were not expecting tough resistance.

Pakistan’s army responded with indiscriminate bombing, unintentionally helping the militants through the resulting high civilian casualties. Contrary to standard principles of warfare, a peace deal with militants was pursued at this juncture, and was implemented by the military leadership. Pakistan’s army was in a weak situation on the ground, and it was an inappropriate time to opt for a negotiated deal. Such deals are better worked out from a position of strength. The details of the agreement make this point clear:

SHAKAI Agreement (South Waziristan Agency). The signing of peace agreements with militants started with the SHAKAI Agreement in early 2004. It was signed with notorious but charismatic militant leader Nek Muhammad and his militant commanders at Shakai, South Waziristan, on April 24, 2004. Nek Mohammad, a Wazir tribesman, was known in the region for his bravery. He was believed to have provided sanctuary to Uzbek militant leader Tahir Yuldashev during the confrontation with Pakistan’s army.6 The agreement’s ten signatories from the militants’ side were Muhammad Mirajuddin, Maulana Abdul Malik, Maulana Akhtar Gul, Muhammad Abbas, Nek Mohammad, Haji Sharif, Baitullah Mehsud, Noor Islam, Muhammad Javed, and Muhammad Alam (alias Abdullah). Two names are especially noteworthy—Noor Islam and Baitullah Mehsud—as both later emerged as leading militant leaders of the Pakistani Taliban movement. Two representatives of the area in the National Assembly of Pakistan, known for their pro-Taliban leanings, acted as mediators: Maulana Merajuddin Qureshi and Maulana Abdul Malik Wazir. The crucial clauses of the “conidential” agreement are quite instructive (though some claim that the agreement was verbal and not written):

1. The government will release prisoners taken before and during the recent operations in the area. About 163 local and Afghan militants were released under this clause.

2. The government will pay compensation for the “shuhada” (martyred/injured persons) during the operation, and for collateral damage caused during the military operation.

3. The government will not take action against Nek Muhammad and other wanted individuals.

4. The government will allow foreign “mujahidin” (foreign ighters) to live peacefully in Waziristan.

5. “Mujahidin” will not resort to any action against the land and government of Pakistan.

6. “Mujahidin e Waziristan” (ighters from Waziristan) will not resort to any action against Afghanistan.7

According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, a leading Pakistani journalist, the agreement was described by both sides “as a reconciliation between estranged brothers.”8 Yusufzai also maintained that General David Barno (commander of the Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan 2003-05) called Peshawar Corps Commander Safdar Hussain to congratulate and thank him for formulating a policy that would isolate al-Qaeda by draining it of its local support in South Waziristan. The arrangement did work for roughly seven weeks, in the sense that there was no lare-up of violence, but soon differences arose as to the interpretation of a clause dealing with the registration of foreign militants.

The government believed that foreign militants were to be handed over to state authorities, whereas the militants argued that there was no speciic agreement on this point. When pushed, the militants asked for more time to deliver on this aspect, but clearly they were just trying to gain time. After they missed a couple of deadlines, military operations were re-launched on June 11, 2004.9 Nek Mohammad was killed by a Hellire missile launched from a U.S. Predator drone eight days later, indicating that U.S.-Pakistan cooperation was working reasonably well.

The negative consequences of the deal outweighed its utility. Nek Mohammad became a hero in the eyes of local population, and though he was killed after he backed out of the agreement, he created a new model of deiance for young radicals of the area. The recent history of FATA had witnessed many ighters, but hardly anyone had challenged Pakistan’s military. In this sense, Nek Mohammad had created a new pattern. Moreover, Pakistan’s army faced immense obstacles to re-arresting the militants who were released as part of the arrangement; they went back to their business. At the end of the day, in the eyes of the local population, the militants assumed more importance than the traditional tribal leaders since Pakistan’s government had accorded them an elevated status by engaging them in negotiations directly.

Sararogha Peace Deal. The militancy was fast assuming the status of an insurgency during the 2004-05 period, and it expanded from the Wazir tribe of South Waziristan to the Mehsud tribes in the agency. Abdullah Mehsud and Baitullah Mehsud emerged as major militant leaders during these years. Pakistan’s government felt it had no option but to try to implement another deal to bring calm in the Mehsud territories. A deal was inked between Baitullah Mehsud and the government of Pakistan on February 7, 2005, at Sararogha, South Waziristan.10 Learning lessons from the previous deal, a written agreement was signed but not publicly disseminated:

1. Militants (under Baitullah Mehsud) will neither harbor nor support any foreign ighter in the area.

2. Militants will neither attack any government functionary nor damage government property. They will not create any hindrance to development activities.

3. The government will not take action against Baitullah Mehsud and his supporters for their previous activities. Future involvement in any kind of terrorist or criminal activities will be dealt with under the prevailing laws in FATA. Violators of this arrangement will be handed over to the government.

4. Baitullah Mehsud pledged that if any “culprit” (not from his group) was found in his area, the Mehsud tribe would hand him over to government authorities in FATA.

5. All issues not covered under this agreement will be resolved with mutual consultation between the political administration and

Mehsud tribe.11

The agreement was signed by Baitullah Mehsud and several members of his group: Malik Inayatullah Khan, Malik Qayyum Sher, and Malik Sher Bahadar Shamankhel.

There were major lacunae in this “deal.” Interestingly, no clause was inserted regarding cross-border iniltration or attacks in Afghanistan, and no demand was made about the surrender of “foreign militants.” Serious controversies also arose during peace negotiations regarding the issue of inancial payments to the militants. For instance, Amir Mir, a bold Pakistani journalist, claimed in an Asia Times article that “tribal militants demanded Rs 170 million (US$2.8 million) during the course of peace negotiations, and eventually settled for Rs 50 million to repay debts they owed to al-Qaedalinked foreign militants.”12 The BBC also conirmed such reports, but some sources claimed the money was meant as compensation for property damaged in South Waziristan during the military campaign.13 In any case, the arrangement clearly strengthened militants’ inluence and status in the area as they practically won the freedom to expand their activities. It seemed that one could get away with anything in the name of a peace deal.

Two issues are worth mentioning here. First, the Wazir-Mehsud tribal rivalry in the area is entrenched, and Pakistan’s army was possibly attempting to widen that gulf by being soft on one tribe. If so, it was a dangerous gamble that failed: the government of Pakistan failed to realize that for both Wazirs and Mehsuds, Pakistan’s army was an “outside force” against whom they were expected to join hands. Second, Baitullah Mehsud and Haji Omar, who were the main signatories of the deal, publicly said that they were committed to continuing to wage their “jihad” against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, and these statements were reported in the mainstream Pakistani media.14

The deal was unilaterally scrapped by Baitullah Mehsud on August 18, 2007, in reaction to increased patrols by Pakistan’s army. As is evident now, the deal allowed him to become an unrivalled king of the area, and he trashed the deal a few months before he launched TTP. Mehsud was inally killed in August 2009 by a U.S. drone strike.

Mirahshah Peace Acccord. Uthmanzai Wazirs of North Waziristan were the next to revolt, as they started attacking security forces and their convoys regularly.15 Pakistan’s army conducted various limited operations in response, but an insurgency-like situation quickly developed. The two previous “peace deals” had set a precedent: whoever challenges the government writ has more leverage during negotiations. Predictably, Pakistan cut another deal, this time with the militants of North Waziristan on September 5, 2006. There were certainly some improvements in the way the arrangement was negotiated and inalized. For instance, government functionaries who held civilian administrative positions in the area were involved in the process, and a detailed agreement was drafted before the “signing ceremony.” Important points of the 16-clause agreement are as follows. First, the Uthmani Wazirs (including local Taliban, religious leaders, and tribal elders) committed that:

1. There will be no attacks on law enforcement agencies and government property.

2. No parallel administrative set-up will be introduced, and the writ of government will be respected. In case of any dispute about the implementation of the agreement, local administration will be consulted to resolve the issue.

3. There will be no cross-border movement to support militancy in Afghanistan. There will be no restriction on border crossing, however, for the purposes of trade/business and meeting relatives according to local norms.

4. Similarly, there will be no support for militant activity in the surrounding agencies of FATA.

5. All foreigners residing in North Waziristan will be asked either to leave Pakistan or to remain peaceful and abide by this agreement.

6. All captured government vehicles, equipment, and weapons will be returned.

In return, the government’s promises included:

1. All militants and civilians of the area arrested during the recent military operation will be released, and will not be arrested again on the previous charges.

2. The government will resume providing inancial resources to local maliks.

3. The government will remove all newly-established checkpoints on roads, and will also post Levies and Khasadars on the old checkpoints as in the past.

4. The government will return all vehicles and other items, like weapons etc., captured during the operation.

5. The government will pay compensation for all collateral damage to the affected families.

6. According to tribal traditions, there will be no restrictions on carrying weapons, except heavy weapons.

7. Implementation of the agreement will start after all military action is stopped, and after the withdrawal of Pakistan’s army from checkpoints to its barracks. However, the government has the right to take action if any group violates the agreement.16

On the militant side, the agreement was signed by Haiz Gul Bahadar, Maulana Sadiq Noor, and Maulana Abdul Khaliq. Some analysts believe that Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, endorsed the accord and persuaded local militants to sign.17

Similar to the Sararogha arrangement, some inancial compensation was included in the deal, thus strengthening the militants’ inluence. Though the agreement was more intrusive about the issue of “foreigners” (meaning al-Qaeda and Central Asian militants), around 100 mid-level Taliban and Arab ighters were released from Pakistani custody according to a 2006 International Crisis Group report.18 This was a self-defeating proposition under any circumstances. Moreover, despite the agreement’s clear mention of the supremacy of government authority in the area, the militants’ lag (al-Rayah) was hoisted at the stadium where the deal was signed. The News, a leading English-language newspaper, said in its September 7, 2006, editorial: “[T] he government has all but caved in to the demands of the militants. More ominously, the agreement seems to be a tacit acknowledgment by the government of the growing power and authority of the local Taliban.”19

Militants upheld their end of the bargain for a few months after the deal was signed, but then returned to their old policies of collaborating with foreign militants and supporting cross-border movement. In the words of a Pakistani writer, these deals in fact provided “much-needed respite to the militants, enabling them to re-group and re-organise themselves.”20 The roughly tenmonth-old “peace deal” inally collapsed in July 2007.21 If anything, militants expanded their support networks during the months of “peace”; even during the relative calm in North Waziristan, militants continued to support some Taliban factions in South Waziristan and parts of Afghanistan.


The various accords discussed in this chapter were initially intended to reduce losses for the military, which was ill-equipped and insuficiently motivated to take on militants in Waziristan. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan was highly unpopular from the beginning in the Pashtun areas of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and going against public opinion in FATA was an uphill task for Pakistan’s army. This is often ignored in Western discourse on the subject. In comparison, it is widely recognized that Pakistan all along wanted to remain friendly with at least some Taliban groups that, in time of need, could help it confront the rising Indian inluence in Afghanistan. “Peace deals” were in part a product of such factors and fears.

Another relevant issue is Pakistan’s efforts at countering Arab and Central Asian ighters and terrorists in the tribal belt. Pakistan achieved many successes in this regard, as compared to its performance against the Pakistani Taliban. In fact, the rise of TTP was a byproduct of Pakistan’s campaign against al-Qaeda, as Pakistani militants and extremists in FATA were galvanized and mobilized by Pakistan’s military presence and operations. This is why Pakistani security forces often complain that their plight goes unregistered in Western capitals.

Where Pakistan fared poorly was in its failure to understand the true nature of Taliban ideology and emerging radicalization trends in FATA. The Taliban were bound to move into NWFP and beyond if unchecked, and the warnings of many Pakistani writers and journalists went unheeded by the state.22 To be fair, learning lessons from mistakes is a process, and thus Pakistan’s limitations with respect to the 2004 peace deal are understandable. However, once the consequences of that faulty arrangement were exposed in the shape of heightened militancy and expansionist Taliban tendencies, President Musharraf should have adopted tougher and smarter tactics in the FATA.

Perhaps Musharraf’s own political ambitions and dependence on approval within the military infrastructure stood in the way. Poor leadership in the NWFP during the 2004-07 timeframe and the dubious policies of the MMA ruling alliance in the province also played an important role in the counterproductive policy choices. Last but not the least, indiscriminate use of force, both by Pakistan and the U.S. (through drone attacks) proved to be a problematic policy in FATA. As an Islambad-based think tank has rightly argued: “A social as well as a political dimension would have to be added to the equation. In absence of a social dimension, the military action might continue endlessly proving extremely detrimental to the state, society, politics and the economy of Pakistan.”23 Pakistan could have been saved a lot of bloodshed if what its army started doing in 2009 in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, with public and political support, would have begun around 2005.


1 Pashtunwali is an ancient and chivalrous “code of honor” associated with Pashtuns. It is a social, cultural, and quasi-legal code guiding, governing, and shaping both individual and communal conduct. One of its primary features is Nanawatay (Sanctuary): protection given to a person who requests it against his enemies. Any visitor to the area in a dificult situation can ask for sanctuary after telling locals that he means no harm to the people of the area. That person is protected at all costs, and under any circumstances.

2 Tribes that live on both sides of the border include Wazir, Shinwari, Sai, Momund, Salarazai and Mangal.

3 Sartaj Khan, “Changing Pushtun Society,” The News (Pakistan), Jan. 14, 2010.

4 See Tariq Mahmud Ashraf, “Pakistan’s Frontier Corps and the War Against Terrorism—Part Two,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, Aug. 11, 2008.

5 See Ismail Khan, “Four Soldiers Die in Wana Attack,” Dawn, Jan. 10, 2004; Shabana Fayyaz, Towards a Durable Peace in Afghanistan, Brief No. 10, Pakistan Security Research Unit, University of Bradford, Apr. 23, 2007.

6 Justin Huggler, “Rebel Tribal Leader is Killed in Pakistan,” Independent (U.K.), June 19, 2004.

7 Fayyaz, Towards a Durable Peace in Afghanistan.

8 Rahimullah Yusufzai, “All Quiet on the North Western Front,” Newsline (Karachi), May 2004.

9 Ismail Khan & Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Airstrikes Launched in Shakai,” Dawn, June 12, 2004.

10 Shamim Shahid, “Baitullah, Supporters Lay Down Arms,” The Nation (Pakistan), Feb. 9, 2005.

11 Author’s interview with an oficial of the FATA Secretariat, Peshawar, July 18, 2009.

12 Amir Mir, “War and Peace in Waziristan,” Asia Times, May 4, 2005.

13 “Pakistan Pays Tribe al-Qaeda Debt,” BBC News, Feb. 9, 2005.

14 For Baitullah Mehsud’s statement, see Haroon Rashid, “Pakistan Taleban Vow More Violence,” BBC News, Jan. 29, 2007.

15 Zuliqar Ghumman, “Taliban Killed 150 Pro-Government Maliks,” Daily Times (Pakistan), Apr. 18, 2006.

16 For details, see Ismail Khan, “Why the Waziristan Deal is Such a Hard Sell,” Dawn (Pakistan), Oct. 14, 2006; Muhammad Amir Rana, “Pitfalls in Miramshah Peace Deal,” Dawn (Pakistan), Sept. 30, 2006.

17 “Afridi Claims Mullah Omar Backed Waziristan Truce,” The News (Pakistan), Sept. 28, 2006.

18 “Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: Appeasing the Militants,” International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 125, Dec. 11, 2006.

19 Editorial, “Back to Square One?,” The News (Pakistan), Sept. 7, 2006.

20 Sayed G B Shah Bokhari, “How Peace Deals Help Only Militants,” The News (Pakistan), July 31, 2008.

21 “Soldier Killed in Pakistan Militant Attack,” Dawn Updates, July 26, 2007; Haji Mujtiba, “Militants Threaten Attacks in Pakistan’s Waziristan,” Reuters, July 17, 2007; “North Waziristan Clerics to Launch ‘Silent Protest,’” Daily Times (Pakistan), Aug. 3, 2007.

22 For instance, columnists and writers such as Pervez Hoodbhoy, Rahimullah Yusufzai, Amir Rana, and Ismail Khan regularly projected such scenarios in Daily Times, The News, and Dawn, three of Pakistan’s leading English-language newspapers.

23 “Religious Militancy, Taliban and Peace Deals in FATA,” Center for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad, June 16, 2008.

Recent Posts

See All

When infusing pantoprazole, use a separate IV line, a pump, and an in-line filter. A brown wrapper and frequent vital signs are not needed. A client has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The pro

Your paragraph text(10).png
bottom of page