The Pakistan government release 100 tribesmen and reopened the road to Wana today, acceding to Baitullah Mehsud’s demands while he holds 200 or more Pakistani soldiers hostage. From Daily Times:
The government on Monday freed more than a 100 arrested tribesmen and opened the main highway to meet some of the demands made by the Taliban for the release of around 200 kidnapped soldiers in South Waziristan, but the soldiers have not yet been freed, officials said.
In Mohmand Agency, a government deadline for the release of 10 paramilitary soldiers held hostage by the militants passed without any significant response from the captors and a tribal jirga was still negotiating their safe return, Mohmand Agency Chief Administrator Dr Kazim Niaz told a news briefing in Ghalanai.
“We have no details whether the jirga has persuaded the Taliban militants to release the soldiers or not,” a senior government official in Wana told Daily Times asking not to be named.
The reason that the officials are asking not to be named is that official position is that the hostages are stranded, camped, or blockaded, not hostage. More on this at The Fourth Rail.
UPDATE: Soldiers Won’t be Beheaded yet…
This editorial sums up some of the loose ends, but still neglects to say who and what groups are running North West Frontier Provinces, and that’s the part that has me stumped at the moment. It’s possible that the Afghan Taliban are the AQ/Taliban contingent running NWFP, and Baitullah Mehsud is running SWFP, but then Who is Emir in NWFP?
The government and the army has not figured out the focus yet, but this is now a war for Pakistan with the tribals and Al Qaeda. More accomodation will not get them anywhere, the demands and reprisals will continue until the Terrorist leaders are killed. All the leaders.
Meanwhile the Taliban and other groups continue to attack the army posts in the frontiers with ineffective rocket attacks, with civilians caught in the crossfire:
A tribal woman was killed and two others injured after security forces used artillery fire to pound the hideouts of suspected Taliban militants who targeted a checkpost in North Waziristan Monday, officials said.
They said she died when an artillery shell hit her home in Qutabkhel village near Miranshah moments after the Taliban fired three rockets on Chashma checkpost. “A girl and a woman were injured in the same incident,” local officials said. “The Taliban are using the local population as human shields.” The security forces use artillery, mortar and helicopters instead of ground forces against the Taliban to avoid fatalities. The security forces also used artillery fire in the Dandi Darpakhel area late Sunday when a checkpost was attacked.
Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson talks on a variety of subjects here, including nuclear proliferation and the talks with India. While I don’t agree with her on some items, she is a competent spokesperson for Pakistan, interweaving grains of truth with the usual state sophistries. The grains of truth: US perceptions on Pakistan are sometimes colored or framed by an over-abundance of Indian-supplied intelligence, and Pakistan did not start the nuclear arms race in the sub-continent.
More on the Karachi Bridge collapse here, apparently the curve radius was redesigned after protests from JUI-F over the shops that would have to be demolished otherwise. (Encroachment on Government land in Pakistan is common because there is so little land in private hands, because of that there isn’t a way to reasonably stop encroachments anywhere, including land like that the Red Mosque encroached upon.)