Pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan's restive north Waziristan region near the Afghan border on Sunday unilaterally announced an end to a critical agreement with the government of President General Pervez Musharraf, which saw the Pakistani military withdraw its troops from the area last year in the hope of overseeing a durable peace.
The threat to end the agreement coincided with mounting violence in the region which on Sunday saw at least 32 people killed in two separate armed attacks. In the latest attack, a suicide bomber targeted a police recruitment center in Dera Ismail Khan, a largely conservative Muslim town in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), killing 18 young men who were taking their police entrance exams.
This followed an attack earlier in the day on paramilitary troops in Matta, a town in Swat, a picturesque valley in NWFP, which killed 14 paramilitary troops. On Saturday, 24 security troops were killed in a suicide attack in north Waziristan region.
The agreement in north Waziristan struck last September between General Musharraf's regime and supporters of militants, under which the Pakistani military was withdrawn, was widely criticized by Western diplomats as a significant concession.
In return, pro-Taliban Pakistani tribesmen promised to stop anyone from entering Afghanistan to fight alongside militants waging war against Afghan and western troops.
"The Taliban are forced to announce the end of the agreement" said the leadership council of Pakistani tribal elders in a statement issued in Miranshah, the main town of Pakistan's north Waziristan tribal region. The council said their decision was driven by the government's decision to launch several attacks in the region since the agreement was signed.
Pakistani officials said, the end to the agreement was a significant setback to efforts by General Musharraf's regime towards restoring calm to restive regions along the Afghan border which have been criticized by Western officials (including from the U.S.) for providing safe havens to al Qaeda and Taliban militants who have fled western and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.