PESHAWAR, June 10: The government has ordered security forces operating in the volatile South Waziristan tribal region to 'capture or kill' five tribal militants who were granted amnesty some time ago.
Highly-placed sources in the federal government told Dawn that the government decided to rescind the amnesty after the five militants had reneged on their word to get foreign militants under their protection registered with the authorities. Meanwhile, rockets were fired on the paramilitary Scouts Camp in Wana, the region's headquarters, on Thursday, but did not cause any injury.
The five militants, Nek Muhammad, Haji Sharif, Noor Islam, Maulavai Abbas and Maulavi Abdul Aziz, were pardoned on April 24 when Corps Commander, Peshawar, Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain, flew into Shakai to announce the amnesty in return for their pledge to remain peaceful and not to use Pakistan's soil against any other country.
However, the 'rapprochement' as it was called at that time, collapsed soon after over interpretation of the terms of the agreement reached between the government and the militants.
The government insists that the militants must get the foreigners harboured by them registered in order to avail themselves of the amnesty. But Nek Muhammad, the 27-year-old former Taliban commander, says that registration of foreign militants was not part of the agreement.
These sources said the decision to withdraw the amnesty had been taken at a high-level meeting held in Islamabad last month. It was presided over by President Musharraf.
The meeting, said the sources, had been called to review the situation in Wana with particular reference to the Shakai agreement, and was attended by senior military and civil administration officials. The meeting authorized the civil administration to handle the situation in Wana, but with clear-cut instructions to get the issue of foreign militants resolved.
The president ordered withdrawal of the amnesty and accordingly, said these sources, security forces operating in the tribal region were ordered to 'capture or kill' the militants.
As part of a plan worked out at the meeting, the government decided to first work through the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe and let them decide the fate of the five militants. It was under these circumstances, the sources said, that the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe decided to exclude the Abidkhel-Yargulkhel sub-tribe to which the five militants belonged from any tribal action against militants.
Finally on Tuesday, the administration in Wana issued notices to the Wazir tribe to 'present the wanted' tribal militants. It was made clear that a failure by the tribe to produce the wanted people would invoke the Frontier Crimes Regulations under which the authorities had the power to hold any person in detention for any length of time.
"The amnesty was conditional, that they would get their foreign guests registered with the authorities. It was never meant to be a blanket one-way offer. They had been pardoned in return for a pledge and in the end these people did not honour their word", the sources said.
Nek Muhammad, it may be mentioned, has warned of reprisal attacks in Peshawar, Islamabad and Karachi if the government did not stop what he called excesses against his people in South Waziristan.
In an interview with the BBC Pushto broadcast on Wednesday night he accused the government of going back on its pledge and warned against any military operation against his people.
Our Correspondent in Wana adds: Suspected militants fired two rockets into the Scouts Camp at around 4 am on Thursday. The rockets hit an empty building in the southern part of the camp and partially damaged it but did not cause any injury.
The Scouts responded by firing medium-range artillery that continued for about an hour. Kakakhel tribesmen to the east of the Scouts Camp spotted a missile that was aimed at the Scouts Camp later in the day and informed the military authorities who immediately rushed to the spot and recovered it.
Meanwhile, tribesmen in Azam Warsak and Karikot were forming small lashkars to keep out foreign militants from their areas for fear of inviting a military operation.
The government has claimed to have retrieved four more bodies of foreign militants, taking their overall death toll to 22. The deceased were in camouflaged battle fatigues. A notebook in Uzbek language and a wireless set is also claimed to have been recovered from the area.