PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s leading militants have called on fighters to honor an agreement not to attack the Pakistani military in the most important sanctuary for the Taliban and al-Qaida along the Afghan border.
Militants have long used the North Waziristan tribal area as a base to strike U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan. American officials have accused Pakistan of supporting some militants in the area, especially the feared Haqqani network — allegations Islamabad denies.
The operational chief of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is part of the five-member leadership council that distributed a pamphlet Saturday ordering militants not to stage rocket or bomb attacks in North Waziristan.
"In North Waziristan, we are all in agreement with the Pakistani government, so we are all bound to honor this agreement and nobody is allowed to violate it," the pamphlet said. A copy of the document was obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday.
Anyone who violates the agreement "will dealt with as a culprit," it said.
The military, which has never publicly acknowledged a peace agreement with militants in North Waziristan, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The military has targeted militant bases in other tribal areas along the border, and the pamphlet appeared to be an attempt by the militants to preserve North Waziristan as a sanctuary from such an offensive. There have been several rocket and bomb attacks against the military in North Waziristan since the council was formed in early January.
Haqqani is the only Afghan militant on the council. The others are from Pakistan, including the most senior members of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, and two other prominent commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir.
The council was set up with the assistance of al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban to work out differences among the Pakistan-based militants, who have long been split over where they should focus their fighting. The Pakistani Taliban have concentrated on toppling the government in Islamabad, while the other militants on the council have almost exclusively directed their attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military has launched a series of offensives against the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest. But it has resisted U.S. demands to launch an operation in North Waziristan, even though it has approximately 40,000 troops stationed there.
The military has said its forces are stretched too thin by other offensives. But many analysts believe the reluctance is driven by close ties with the Haqqani network, which is seen as a key ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.
The military has also allegedly struck peace agreements in the past with two other members of the council, Bahadur and Nazir. But those pacts have never been explicitly acknowledged by the military.
Many Afghan Taliban militants are also believed to be based in Pakistan, especially in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Analysts have speculated that the group’s chief, Mullah Omar, is based there.
Pakistani tribal police on Sunday accused Afghan forces of crossing into Baluchistan and snatching three men allegedly providing safe haven to militants fighting in Afghanistan.
Thirteen Afghan security personnel drove nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) into Baluchistan on Saturday and took the men from Thukha village, said Mohammed Azim, tribal police chief in the surrounding Killa Saifullah district.
Officials have received unconfirmed reports that two of the men have been killed and have sent a delegation to Afghanistan to retrieve the bodies, said Azim.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry said it was investigating the allegations.
The border in the area is not clearly marked, and locals regularly travel between the countries.
Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar contributed to this report from Quetta, Pakistan.