PESHAWAR, Jan 30: Government officials and tribal notables are busy in finalizing the draft of a peace agreement which would be signed by the authorities and mujahideen leaders to end militancy and bring peace to the South Waziristan tribal region.
"In principle, Baitullah Mehsud has agreed to sign the peace accord. Many more are ready to come and sign it. Modalities are being worked out at present. Now it is only the question of working out when, where and how to arrange the signing ceremony," a source associated with negotiations with Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan told Dawn.
However, the source insisted that it was by no means 'surrender' by the militant leader who, he said, was also seeking amnesty for a few hundred of his 'mujahideen'. "He wants some basic guarantees that he and hundreds of his fighters would not be pursued, no action would be taken against them and they would have a freedom of movement," the source said.
Baitullah Mehsud in return had agreed to furnish a list of his fighters to the government to ensure that they would not be persecuted and harassed, the source said.
The militant leader had also agreed to end militancy and not to resume any activity against security forces and the government, said the source, who had gone to meet the heavily-guarded commander at an undisclosed location along with a group of tribal mediators.
The proposed peace deal will be extended to Baitullah Mehsud and his entire group of fighters. However, the 29-year-old former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abdullah Mehsud, would not be included in the deal.
Baitullah Mehsud, who had previously been insisting on extending amnesty to his one-legged comrade, told tribal mediators that he had been 'instructed by his high command' to enter into a peace deal with the government without Abdullah Mehsud.
"Baitullah said he had received amr (order/instruction) from the 'above' to sign the peace agreement," the source said. "Now who is that high command which has instructed him to sign the deal, we don't know, nor is he ready to say anything more," the source added.
He said that Baitullah Mehsud had claimed that foreign militants hiding in the tribal region had either moved to other areas, crossed into Afghanistan or gone to Iraq via Iran.
He said the militant commander had also assured the authorities that he would not organize any militant training camps in the region. The draft agreement is likely to be discussed at a meeting between NWFP Governor Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain on Monday.
The official said that Dre Mehsud that represents the entire Mehsud tribe and its offshoots had also expressed its willingness to sign the peace deal in order to end the ongoing conflict in their area.
He said that Dre Mehsud had also indicated that they would like to furnish guarantees of good future conduct to the government on behalf of Baitullah Mehsud. "This is not just Baitullah Mehsud's Shaibkhel tribe guaranteeing for him; it would be the entire Mehsud tribe furnishing guarantees," the source said.
He said the government had expected that the deal would be signed by Feb 2, but the date could be extended by a day or two if required. "We would like to study what the guarantees are and ensure that there is no catch in the agreement," the official said.
But a tribal source said that the only thing that needed to be worked out was where and how the government wanted the signing ceremony to be held. "Whether they want it to be a high-profile ceremony with the governor or the corps commander attending it or a low-key affair at the local level," the source said.