ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A peace deal between Pakistan’s government and Islamic militants in the northwestern tribal region of North Waziristan has created a virtual Taliban mini-state where mullahs dispense justice and fighters are launching cross-border attacks into neighboring Afghanistan, a think tank reported Monday.
The U.S. military confirmed that attacks have risen sharply since the deal was reached earlier this year despite concerns it would give a freer hand to Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants who fled to Pakistan after the fall of the hard-line regime in Afghanistan in 2001.
“Over the past five years, the (President Gen. Pervez) Musharraf government has tried first brute force, then appeasement. Both have failed,” said Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group that published the report. “Islamabad’s tactics have only emboldened the pro-Taliban militants.”
That grim assessment came against the backdrop of a surge in violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan this year that has killed close to 4,000 people, threatening the Western-backed project to rebuild the country and establish democracy.
Government policy has allowed militants “to establish a virtual mini-Taliban-style state,” the Crisis Group said, citing reports of pro-Taliban militants attacking music, video and CD stores, closing barber shops, imposing taxes and establishing courts to impose summary justice.
The Pakistani government rejected the Brussels-based group’s report as “baseless allegations” and described the violence across the border as Afghanistan’s internal problem.
A senior tribal elder confirmed the Taliban had gained sway in North Waziristan. Tribesmen were bypassing the government and traditional tribal leaders and approaching their pro-Taliban leaders in the towns of Miran Shah and Mir Ali to settle disputes, he said on condition of anonymity.