Friday, October 06, 2006

While you were reading Mark Foley's IM's

Two very distrurbing stories broke in the last few weeks with shockingly little coverage by any of the major news outlets. Fist is the news that the government of Pakistan has signed a peace treaty with the Taliban dominated tribal militias controlling the region of Waziristan. A Google search on Waziristan turned up very few news articles, and none by a major western news organization in the first four pages of results. Notably most of the commentary on the accord were from blogs. This article by Dawn, an English language Pakistani newspaper, gives the most complete account that I have been able to find:

Waziristan accord signed

By Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH, Sept 5: Militants in the restive North Waziristan tribal region on Tuesday signed a peace agreement, pledging to halt cross-border movement and stop attacks on government installations and security forces.

“There shall be no cross-border movement for militant activity in neighbouring Afghanistan,” read a clause of the three-page agreement signed by seven militants on behalf of the Taliban shura (advisory council).

On its part, the government pledged not to undertake any ground or air operation against the militants and resolve the issue through local customs and traditions.

Political Agent of North Waziristan Dr Fakhr-i-Alam signed the agreement on behalf of the government. Maj-Gen Azhar Ali Shah oversaw the signing and later embraced the militants.

The peace deal brokered by a grand tribal jirga will come into force with the relocation of the army from the checkpoints in the region. Tribal Khasadar force and Levy will take over the checkposts.

Sources said that army had almost vacated all the checkpoints in the tribal region and moved to camps and Touchi Scout Fort in Miramshah.

The ceremony held in the football ground of the Government Degree College was witnessed by about 500 elders, parliamentarians and officials.

The agreement contains 16 clauses and four sub-clauses.

Militant commanders Maulana Gul Behadur and Maulvi Sadiq Noor did not attend the ceremony and their representatives signed the document on their behalf.

Maulvi Nek Zaman MNA read out the agreement after which the militants and military officials hugged each other and exchanged greetings. The venue was heavily guarded by armed Taliban and journalists were not allowed to shoot or film the event.

The agreement envisages that the foreigners living in North Waziristan will have to leave Pakistan but those who cannot leave will be allowed to live peacefully, respecting the law of the land and the agreement.

Both parties (army and militants) will return each other’s weapons, vehicles and communication tools seized during various operations.

It said that tribal elders, Mujahideen and Utmanzai tribe would ensure that no-one attacked law-enforcement personnel and state property.

“There will be no target killing and no parallel administration in the agency. The writ of the state will prevail in the area”, the agreement said.

It said that militants would not enter the settled districts adjacent to the agency.

The agreement said that the government would release prisoners held in military action and would not arrest them again.

Tribesmen’s ‘incentives’ would be restored, it said and bound the administration to resolve disputes in accordance with the local customs and traditions.

It said the government would pay compensation for the loss of life and property of innocent tribesmen during the recent operation. There will be no ban on display of arms. However, tribesmen will not carry heavy weapons.

A 10-member committee — comprising elders, members of political administration and Ulema — has been formed to monitor progress on the agreement and to ensure its implementation.

Governor Ali Mohammad Aurakzai has welcomed the peace agreement as ‘unprecedented in tribal history’ and credited the inter-tribal jirga with amicably resolving a complicated issue within a few weeks.

A spokesman of the militants said that the jirga had assured them that the government would pay them Rs10 million if it failed to hand over the weapons and vehicles it had seized during various military operations.

Abdullah Farhad, in a call from an undisclosed location, said that there were no foreign militants in the region and if there were any, the government should have provided evidence of their presence.

This essentially means that the Taliban have managed to set up a new state within a state, which can not bode well for our efforts to combat Al-Quaeda. What we are seeing here, and in Somalia are the rise of terrorist parasite states. This can not be seen as anything other than a concession of defeat by the Musharraf government. The deafening silence coming from the news media as well as the Bush administration is nothing short of bewildering and disturbing. If you're keeping score at home, this is a touchdown for the bad guys.

The second story to not gain wide coverage was the killing of a provision of the Port Security Act, passed by Congress on Saturday, that would have placed hiring restrictions on dock workers convicted of serious crimes. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal broke the story on Monday:
Congress is patting itself on the back for passing the Port Security Act last Saturday. But the day before, a House-Senate conference committee stripped out a provision that would have barred serious felons from working in sensitive dock security jobs. Port security isn't just about checking the contents of cargo containers, it also means checking the background of the 400,000 workers on our docks.

U.S. harbors are filled with workers convicted of serious crimes. Just last year the Justice Department filed a RICO suit charging that the 65,000-member East Coast-based International Longshoremen's Association is a "vehicle for organized crime."

But the House-Senate conference drastically watered down a Senate-passed requirement that aligned the standards for hiring dock workers with those used at airports and nuclear plants. The statute still bans workers who have been convicted of treason, espionage and terror-related offenses--a mere handful at most. But a seven-year time-out period on hiring those who've committed crimes such as murder, bribery, identity fraud and the illegal use of firearms was dropped in the dead of night at the behest of unions fearful that too many of their members could lose their jobs.

"The security stakes are too high to trust serious felons who could be manipulated or bribed by people trying to smuggle a nuclear device or chemical weapon into our ports," says Sen. Jim DeMint, sponsor of the dropped provision. Security analysts echo his fears. They say terrorists working with truck drivers could plant a bomb aboard a cruise ship or pack a 40-foot cargo container with explosives. Stephen Flynn, a former U.S. Customs official now with the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that "if a bomb went off in a seaport, we would likely see a closing of the seaports, bringing the global trade system to a halt and potentially putting our economy into recession."

Officials at several ports echo these concerns. "There is a gaping hole in port security," Byron Miller of the Charleston, S.C., port, the nation's sixth largest, told me. "Right now, by law we cannot do background checks on 8,000 people who work at this port." He noted that a state bill to provide for background checks was killed last year after unions applied a full-court press against it.

The problem is massive. The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the ports of New York and New Jersey and found that of 9,000 truckers checked, nearly half had criminal records. They included murderers, drug dealers, arsonists and members of the deadly MS-13 gang. It concluded that these security gaps represent "vulnerabilities that could be capitalized by terrorist organizations." A dock worker who has been convicted of smuggling drugs is a potential danger. "Instead of bringing in 50 kilograms of heroin, what would stop them from bringing in five kilograms of plutonium?" asks Joseph King, a former Customs Service agent who now teaches criminal justice at New York University
That such a political deal is possible can be seen by the clout of the unions who were able to gut the felon ban in the House-Senate conference committee. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, assured colleagues he would fight for the ban in conference but in reality fought to have it weakened. His staff even called Port of Charleston officials and told them their port would be shut down if the DeMint amendment became law. Mr. Miller can't confirm the call was made, but other port officials remember it. Mr. Inouye's office declined to respond to my questions about his role other than to send me an e-mail claiming the senator "supported the [DeMint] provision."

Other legislators were also involved in smothering the DeMint provision. The staffs of three members of Congress told me that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, a close friend of Mr. Inouye, also fought the measure, although his staff declined to publicly discuss the senator's position on the bill. New York's Rep. Peter King, the pro-union Republican who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, told the House that the list of proposed criminal offenses "includes vague and overly broad crimes" and supported the move "to narrow and limit the list." Mississippi's Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on Homeland Security, told colleagues that "we should not play judge and jury" and opposed even the final statutory ban on felons convicted of treason and terror-related crimes. Steve Stallone, the communications director for the West Coast-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union, told the Daily Labor Report that barring felons from jobs at secure dock facilities would be "double jeopardy" and could push them back into crime to make a living.

As to why the media is talking about Mark Foley and not these two stories is a question that must boggle the mind of any serious observer of the world. Lenin once observed that capitalists would sell the rope by which they would be hanged. You have to believe that this includes politicians as well. I propose a corollary to Lenin's maxim, for newsmen: a newsman will miss the story of his own hanging because he was too busy investigating whether the rope was manufactured by sweatshop labor.

OK, that isn't so hot. Can anyone write a better corollary?


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Even my little paper ran a brief report on the Pakistan agreement.Probably AP, but I didn't notice the source.

I have mixed feeling about this in principle. If the so-called central government of Iraq signed such an agreement with the Kurds in Iraq, I would applaud, faintly.

The problem is not the principle of devolution to disgruntled minorities who would be unable -- even if willing -- to manage themselves as an independent state. The problem here is what the Waziris like to be disgruntled about.

Musharref has never had firm control of Pakistan's government. He is just about the only Muslim leader I admire. He truly has a wolf by the ears and is managing it very skilfully.

Generally, I don't worry about the demise of dictators. The French have a saying, the graveyards are full of indispensible men. But in this case, if the handover is to another general, it's expecting a lot to get as good a manager as Musharref has been (A.Q. Khan excepted); and the alternative to another general is presumably a Muslim madman.

Evolution to something akin to a modern popular sovereignty is probably out of the question.

I could let Waziristan go -- it could be isolated without much difficulty. It is the Pakistan government's shaky control of Lahore and Karachi that worry me.

I have a review coming out in a few weeks of Hasegawa's 'Racing the Enemy,' which is a rotten book but does have a good discussion about trying to manage the government of a state where no two people agree on goals, much less methods.

October 06, 2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger David said...

The Pakistan agreement is all over the lefty blogs, where it is presented as a truce with AQ. I don't see how, in practice, it's much different from the de facto situation; the Pakistani government just doesn't have much effective power in the tribal regions. If the tribes are serious about stopping cross-border arms and men smuggling, then it seems better than the situation it replaced.

The situation with the unions sucks.

October 06, 2006 8:18 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

What I read into the Waziristan deal is that Pakistanis will no longer be hunting for terror suspects in Waziristan, if in fact they ever were. So Mullah Omar and other AQ operatives will have a free hand organizing and training local Pakistani operatives for terror missions, though by the agreement they can't harbor foreign fighters. But it's all up to their word that they aren't doing so. It's a wink and a nod agreement.

So what happens if we locate Bin Laden or some other wanted AQ operatives (like Mullah Omar) or locate a training base in Waziristan? Will Musharraf allow us to execute our own mission inside Waziristan or will that now be a breach of Pakistani sovereignty? Seems to me the latter.

October 07, 2006 6:53 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I'm on desk duty tonight and just finished writing a headline on a story reporting that the NATO commander gives us 6 months to fix Afghanistan or the Afghans will go over to the Taliban. (His argument, which possibly was overcondensed by the reporter, seems to be that peace under the Taliban is preferable to the endless warfare they bring.)

I've no idea whether he knows what he's talking about, but the prospect does put Waziristan in the shade.

What if it turns out to be true, as I said long years ago, that Islam is incompatible with modernist state control?

October 08, 2006 11:58 PM  

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