On Nov. 2, 2007, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 324 ran an article under the caption: Why not the Pashtun of the Pakistan-Afghan Border too?
Sources in Washington and Islamabad were quoted as encouraged enough by US successes in drawing Sunni tribal leaders into breaking off their pacts with al Qaeda to think in terms of applying the Iraqi formula to the terrorist-ridden, lawless Pakistan-Afghan borderlands and their denizens, the Pashtuns.
The proposal taking shape, it was reported, is to seek Pashtun tribal cooperation for denying al Qaeda sanctuary and passage through their territories. This would stunt their operational capabilities and dramatically affect the course of the Afghan War.
In the New Year, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report, this proposal has begun to be fulfilled.
Thursday, Jan. 10, members of the Pakistani Pashtun Wazir tribe of Pakistan’s southern Waziristan decided to form a militia to force foreign al Qaeda fighters out of their lands in the tribal belt along the Afghan border.
Thousands of these foreigners, Arabs from different countries, Russian Chechens and Uzbeks, have enjoyed Pashtun sanctuary on both sides of the 2,500-km border ever since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
Osama bin Laden is also believed to be hiding somewhere in those territories.
Thursday, Wazir tribal elder Meetha Khan announced that tribesmen sheltering the foreigners must give them up, or else their families would be expelled from the tribal belt.
The decision came four days after al Qaeda fighters, believed Uzbeks, attacked two offices of a government-sponsored peace movement in South Waziristan and killed eight Wazir tribesmen.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror sources in Pakistan report that Wazir tribe’s decision triggered an instantaneous threat from al Qaeda on the life of the former opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Rehman worked with the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, on the Pashtun project and is credited with a key role in its success.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 324)
He was tipped off in advance of the plot against him by the Pakistan interior ministry, which gave him information about “a clean-shaven man in white clothes” preparing to assassinate him by a suicide bombing or shooting during Rehman’s campaign for election in Pakistan’s general election next month.