Taliban militants have pulled out of a peace deal in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region, dealing a blow to the government's efforts to eliminate attacks by Islamic extremists.
The announcement by a spokesman for Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar could signal the end of months of relative peace in North Waziristan.
Ahmadullah Ahmadi told news agencies on Tuesday the group decided to scrap the deal because Pakistan had not put an end to missile strikes from unmanned U.S. aircraft - or Predator drones - in both North and South Waziristan.
The abandoned agreement was negotiated between local authorities and Taliban representatives last year. Its collapse comes just weeks after the Pakistani military began its campaign to hunt down Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in neighboring South Waziristan.
Pakistani analyst Khalid Aziz says the breakdown of the North Waziristan deal is not surprising. Aziz, formerly chief secretary of North West Frontier Province and now director of the Regional Institute of Policy, Research and Training in Peshawar, says such agreements rarely work because they do not address the underlying problems in Pakistani's tribal areas. Aziz also says such deals have little to do with ideology - and much more to do with political power.
"These are just technical moves of convenience," Aziz said. "From the militants' side, the convenience is that they are in a position of strength within the area. They are, as a matter of fact, the unrecognized government in some places. They're collecting taxes. They are using authority. They are enriching themselves. On the other hand, as long as these so-called agreements last, the government gets weaker."
Aziz says as soon as militant leaders sense the Pakistani government is willing to impose its authority in region like Waziristan, their self interests are immediately threatened and all peace deals are off.
North Waziristan's Taliban leader is Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who negotiated the now-abandoned agreement. He and and his followers are from the Wazir tribe, which has little loyalty to the Mehsud tribe led by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan.
Now, Bahadar says, his fighters will start targeting Pakistani security forces. Just days before Bahadar called off his peace deal with officials, a military convoy was ambushed in North Waziristan. The Army says the attack killed 16 Pakistani troops.
Azmat Hayat Khan, vice chancellor at Peshawar University, says the complexity of tribal alliances in both North and South Waziristan makes the Pakistani military's job much more difficult.
"There are so many groups now having different ideologies and they've been supported by different people," Khan said. "So, one group's interest doesn't coincide with the other. It is very hard to predict. It all depends on how the [military] operation goes. If they are successful and they take it [to] some conclusion, then I think some results will come out. But if it's left in the middle, then I think it's going to have bad effects."
The local population is likely to take the brunt of the military offensive in the region, just as it has in the nearby Swat Valley where an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced. And if that happens, it could erode public support of the military's efforts to go after top militant leaders in Waziristan.