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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 15:07 GMT
Taleban in Pakistan commend dead
M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Frontier fracas : the Waziristan tribal areas
More than 170 Taleban fighters from Pakistan's South Waziristan district have been killed in Afghanistan since 2005, BBC News has learned.

Families of the dead fighters were recently awarded certificates of commendation by the Taleban.

The Pakistani army has signed deals with pro-Taleban leaders in this area aimed at stopping cross-border raids.

But critics say the deals have given the Taleban safe havens from which to launch attacks.

The ceremony of commendation was held on 28 December in the village of Spinki Raghzai, eyewitnesses said.

It was presided over by Baitullah Mahsud, a pro-Taleban commander who signed one of the peace deals with the Pakistani army.

The witnesses said the families of 175 militants killed in Afghanistan since February 2005 were handed certificates by Mr Mahsud.

Of these, 50 militants belonged to his own Mahsud tribe while the rest were Ahmedzai Wazir tribesmen from the Wana region of the district.

Official sanction?

Some members of Pakistan's parliament, who hail from South Waziristan, also attended the ceremony.

Maulana Abdul Malik, national assembly member from the Wana area, and Senator Maulvi Saleh Shah Qureshi confirmed to the BBC that they attended the ceremony.

However, they said that they were only guests and had no role in organising the event.

The Pakistan army lost hundreds of troops in battles with pro-Taleban militants in South Waziristan before signing peace deals with the militant leaders.

Since then, the local administration and the army have claimed that militancy has decreased and peace has returned to the region.

Many analysts, however, disagree and believe that the accords have given a free rein to the Taleban.

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