MIRAMSHAH, Jan 28: Security forces have released seven tribesmen as a goodwill gesture amid reports that the government and militants are inching towards an agreement for restoring peace in North Waziristan.
Officials said the tribesmen had been held under the collective tribal responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulations and they were not militants.
Reciprocating the government’s move, the militants extended till Feb 10 a ceasefire they had announced earlier and returned the weapons they had snatched during attacks on security froces, a tribal negotiator told Dawn on Monday.
He said negotiations were in progress and both sides were likely to sign a peace deal soon. “We are optimistic of a positive outcome of the talks.”
However, Baitullah Mehsud, the amir of the Pakistani Taliban, told Al Jazeera television that the forces had deceived militant groups by engaging one group in talks and carrying out attacks in other areas.
He said all groups under his command had agreed to take a joint stand on talks with the government.
Official sources claimed that the militants who had more influence in Miramshah had softened their stance and were inclined towards signing a new peace deal.
They said 22 more tribesmen detained under the FCR were likely to be released soon.
The militants handed over weapons and ammunition to the security forces in Mirali. Jirga members were present on the occasion.
Militants had revoked in July 2007 a peace agreement reached in September 2006, accusing the government of going back on its word by deploying security forces at checkpoints in North Waziristan.
The government launched back-door talks with the militants and constituted a 30-member jirga led by the chief of Madakhel tribe, Malik Qadir Khan, to revive the peace deal.
The sources said the government had withdrawn army and paramilitary troops from two checkpoints in the region and the tribal Khasadar force was checking vehicles.