Accessibility links

Pakistani Tribesmen Surrender as Part of Amnesty Deal - 2004-04-24


After months of off-and-on fighting in Pakistan's remote tribal region, renegade tribesmen have accepted the government's offer of an amnesty.

Five members of Pakistan's Ziakhel tribe, said to have sheltered foreign militants, surrendered to the army Saturday, and promised to cease all further anti-government activity.

In exchange, the government said it would not punish the men, and would release 50 of their comrades captured in recent military operations.

Pakistan had claimed the men were obstructing its hunt for suspected al-Qaida militants and fugitive insurgents from neighboring Afghanistan hiding in the country's South Waziristan tribal agency.

Clashes between Pakistani paramilitary forces and tribesmen opposed to the government campaign cost 120 lives last month alone.

Military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan Khan says Saturday's surrender ceremony should mark an end to the fighting.

"We do hope that things are going to get quiet, because the locals are on board with the government now," he said.

The government is also offering to grant amnesty to foreign militants who turn themselves in before the end of April, and will even allow them to stay in Pakistan if they wish.

But Major General Sultan says this offer does not extend to high-profile al-Qaida leaders, such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

"If at all there are people who are high profile people, this policy doesn't apply to them. The decision is to be made separately. But these are the normal fighters, no matter who they are, so long as they become positive members of the society," he said.

The truce was brokered by tribal leaders seeking to head off threatened military action against their tribes, including collective fines and the demolishing of their houses.

A colonial British law, still on the Pakistani law books, allows the government to collectively punish tribes for the actions of their individual members.

XS
SM
MD
LG