PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN // A militant commander who has a peace deal with the Pakistani military said his fighters would not stop army engineers building a road through territory he controls in the country's north-west, but warned civilians working on the project would be killed as spies.
The statement by Hafiz Gul Bahadur shows the shaky nature of the deal he has in the Afghan border region of North Waziristan. It follows reports that the Pakistani Taliban, perhaps the most deadly faction there, had entered into preliminary peace talks with the government.
Mr Bahadur and his some 4,000 fighters are a deadly foe for US troops across the border in Afghanistan, but do not target Pakistani troops, unlike some militant factions, including the Pakistani Taliban. This distinguishes the Bahadur group in the eyes of the Pakistani army, which has an unofficial non-aggression pact with them and other allied groups like the Haqqani Network.
This month, Mr Bahadur threatened to abandon the deal, complaining the army had killed some of his men.
Army engineers are building new roads in the tribal regions, seeking to win over the population. The United States, which is supporting Pakistani anti-insurgency operations to reduce attacks in Afghanistan and squeeze Al Qaeda, is paying for some of them.
"We will not create any hurdle in their work so long as our pact is intact, but residents are restricted from contacting them, providing gravel, machinery and vehicles," the Bahadur group said in a statement.
"Such people will have no protection from the holy warriors," the statement said, accusing the army of recruiting locals for spying. "They will be responsible for any losses."