Our dereliction in Kurram

by admin

Kurram has had to run the gauntlet of the first TTP chief, Baitullah Mehsud, who sent his Waziristan lashkar there under the blood-thirsty Qari Hussain in 2007.

According to a report published in a newspaper on November 30, the government has allowed a very dubious meeting between the elders of the Kurram Agency, members of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and “foreign” agents of the Haqqani Group from North Waziristan. The meeting was held “in a guesthouse” in Islamabad and the objective was “restoration of peace in Parachinar (Kurram headquarters) which has remained cut off from the rest of country for three years.”

Who were the interlocutors? MNA Sajid Hussain Turi representing the Shia of Kurram and some elders, while the opposite side was represented by Qari Taj, the commander of the Haqqani Group in Kurram Agency, and Karim Mushtaq, TTP commander for Kurram and Orakzai agencies. Another MNA, Munir Khan Orakzai, also attended the meeting. The talks were fruitless because the Shia Turi side was not willing to give the right of way to the TTP and Haqqani group militants through their territory. In retaliation, the other side refused to lift the roadblock on Thall-Parachinar Road that cuts Kurram off from the rest of the country.

The Turis are in a bind. They can’t leave or enter their agency and have to use Afghanistan territory where they are at risk of being killed by pro-al Qaeda terrorists. Al Qaeda is not particularly fond of the Turis because they are Shia and because they did not allow al Qaeda leadership to stay on their soil after its escape from Tora Bora in 2001. Well-off Turis spend Rs8,000 on a plane ride from Peshawar to get home. The Agency is no longer under any semblance of federal government control for the last three years. And the Haqqani Group from Afghanistan, which is being allowed to hold talks with the Turis in Islamabad, has no business being in Pakistan.

Pakistan is projecting its power into Afghanistan on the basis of warriors who don’t belong to Pakistan and is giving them a status inside Pakistan that violates the sovereignty of the state. The TTP is dominant under the banner of anti-Shia feeling spread in the region by the Sipah-e-Sahaba, a banned terrorist organisation of Punjab which inspires the tribes that live around Kurram. Kurram lies next to the three Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Nangarhar. It has half a million inhabitants out of which around two-fifths are Shia — besides, the capital Parachinar has a majority Shia population. The agency lies next to Waziristan, Orakzai and Khyber agencies where warlords harbour severely sectarian feelings. Down the road from Kurram to Peshawar, cities like Kohat and Hangu have Shia communities cowering before the power of the Taliban for the last decade.

Kurram has had to run the gauntlet of the first TTP chief, Baitullah Mehsud, who sent his Waziristan lashkar there under the blood-thirsty Qari Hussain in 2007. Around 400 Mehsud and Wazir militants fought against the Shia in Kurram, burning down villages and killing dozens of them. Two months later, another warlord, Hakimullah Mehsud, sent hundreds of fighters to outnumber the Shia offering resistance to him. After becoming head of the TTP, Hakimullah appointed Mullah Noor Jamal from Orakzai, known as Mullah Toofan, to lead the Taliban. Mullah Toofan, a brutal commander, indulged in carnage and blocked the above-mentioned road, cutting Kurram from the rest of Pakistan. Infamous warlord Mangal Bagh of Khyber Agency, successfully challenging the Pakistan army, has also dipped his hands in the blood of the people of Kurram.

Pakistan’s military strategy focuses on a quest to control territories not part of its map, at the expense of territory it does have. The bulk of the Pakistan Army faces India on the eastern border. Because of Pakistan’s ambivalence towards the TTP and the Haqqani Group, it has had to suffer a gradual diminution of its writ in small cities like Kohat, Hangu and Bannu, while virtually losing control over the provincial capital, Peshawar. On the eve of America’s exit from Afghanistan, the focus is on how to prevent India from retaining its foothold there. It is difficult to imagine how territories lost inside Pakistan in the pursuit of this strategy will be regained.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2010.

One Comment to “Our dereliction in Kurram”

  1. A quick survey of the official versus actual narrative on Kurram in the last ten days:

    Thall-Parachinar road safe for travel: ISPR
    From the Newspaper
    December 5, 2010

    Sajid Hussain Turi, an MNA from Kurram Agency, told Dawn that the road was still unsafe for traffic, adding that passengers could use the road only when travelling in convoys and security personnel escorted them. – Photo by AP (File)
    RAWALPINDI: The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has claimed that Thall-Parachinar road has been made safe for all types of traffic.

    In a statement it said that security forces would never allow terrorists and their sympathisers to use the road and rejected a perception that it was under the control of local Taliban.

    But Sajid Hussain Turi, an MNA from Kurram Agency, told Dawn that the road was still unsafe for traffic, adding that passengers could use the road only when travelling in convoys and security personnel escorted them.

    “Our tribal people cannot even dare travel on Thall-Parachinar road. They are being given false assurances about the safety of the road. Recently, six tribesmen were kidnapped by the Taliban while travelling on this road,” he said.

    Mr Turi said that people were still negotiating with various tribal groups for making the road secure.

    The ISPR issued the statement in response to a report that said local commanders of the Haqqani group and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan were negotiating with Kurram elders and that the road would be reopened on the condition that Turi tribes would not hinder the movement of militants on it.


    Haqqani-linked militants demand Rs2 crore to broker peace deal
    Published: Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010, 20:26 IST
    Place: Peshawar | Agency: PTI

    Representatives of the Haqqani militant network engaged by Pakistani authorities to broker a peace deal between rival tribesmen in the country’s restive northwestern tribal belt have reportedly demanded Rs2 crore from each of the factions to bring back normalcy.

    A member of a 50-strong ‘jirga’ or council that held talks in Islamabad during November 28-December 7 told PTI on condition of anonymity that Ibrahim Haqqani, who represented the Haqqani network, demanded Rs2 crore each from the Shia Turi tribe, the Sunni Mengal tribe and other communities in Kurram Agency to restore peace and reopen closed roads.

    “Pay me the amount and I will guarantee smooth passage, opening of all roads blocked due to skirmishes between the Sunnis and Shias and maintenance of peace in the area,” the Haqqani representative was quoted as saying by the jirga member.

    The jirga member was returning to Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency, following the parleys.

    Over the past three years, hundreds of tribesmen have died in clashes between Shias and Sunnis in the region.

    The situation was exacerbated after Taliban fighters entered the region and began backing the Sunni tribesmen.

    Elders of the Turi tribe rejected the demand and said they would ensure the security of their tribe by themselves.

    The elders of the Mengal tribe were “somewhat flexible” in their response to the demand, the jirga member said.

    The talks between the tribal elders and the representatives of the Haqqani network were suspended till December 25 without any decision on paying the money sought by the militants.

    The jirga also met Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik and demanded the implementation of the Murree Accord signed last year, under which the rival tribes had agreed on the transfer of lands through the Revenue Department and rehabilitation of people who had left their homes in Kurram Agency during the conflict.

    The jirga included parliamentarian Sajid Turi and members of the Senate or upper house of parliament from Kurram Agency.

    Most key roads and highways in Kurram Agency have been closed for over two years. This has affected the supply of food and other essential goods to the region. The people of Kurram Agency have been forced to travel to Peshawar via Afghanistan.

    The Shia tribesmen have prevented the Taliban from extending their influence to all parts of Kurram Agency.

    Reports have suggested that the Haqqani network is trying to broker a peace deal so that its fighters can use Kurram Agency to sneak into Afghanistan.


    ISO opposes closure of roads, seeks release of mourners
    From the Newspaper
    December 11, 2010 (1 week ago)
    Bureau Report
    PESHAWAR, Dec 10: The Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) has demanded of the government to open all routes heading to Parachinar and also asked for release of the mourners arrested from D.I. Khan.

    The ISO leaders warned that if the government failed to meet the demands they would be forced to announce long march on Islamabad in protest.

    Speaking at a press conference at Peshawar press club on Friday, ISO central vice president Hassan Raza Nadvi said the government had closed the routes of procession by neglecting its responsibility.

    He said mourners were also forced to shorten routes of processions in D.I. Khan, Hangu, Peshawar and rest of the province due to security reasons. He said it was duty of the government to ensure protection to the mourners.

    The ISO leader alleged that the government had created hatred and rift among the Suni and Shia ulema on the pretext of security arrangement, adding, the holy month of Muharram preaches harmony and brotherhood.

    Mr Nadvi demanded of the government to take steps for restoration of routine life in Peshawar as the city was presenting a curfew-like situation in wake of unprecedented security measures. Owing to closure of markets and bazaars, he said, business activities had been adversely affected.

    The ISO leader also asked the government to remove all obstructions and hurdles from the routes of the mourners` processions in D.I. Khan.

    Similarly, he asked the local administration to share security plan, strategy with Shia ulema so that the issues could be resolved without creating any troubles for the public. He also opposed ban on entry of Shia ulema in different cities.


    Three children killed in Kurram mortar attack
    From the Newspaper
    December 13, 2010

    Dawn Report
    PARACHINAR/KOHAT, Dec 12: Three children were killed and seven others received injuries when militants fired mortar shells at a residential area in upper Kurram tribal region on Sunday.

    Official sources said that militants fired mortar shells apparently at an Imambargah in Talozan Tangi area of Kurram. But the shells landed in residential areas, killing three children and injuring seven others.

    Residents said a majlis of Shia community was in progress in the Imambargah when the mortars were fired. “If the mortar shells hit the Imambrgah it would have resulted in huge causalities,” they added.

    The local people expressed concern over security situation in the region. They said the region was sensitive and administration should take stringent measures to avert any eventuality.

    Meanwhile, the alleged terrorists, arrested along with explosives-laden vehicle the other day in Kohat, were remanded in police custody for two days by the special duty judge on Sunday.

    The investigation wing of police presented both the accused in the court of special duty judge, Zahid Hussain, and requested for their remand.

    After reviewing the application the judge remanded the accused for two days in police custody.

    The accused, Imran of Charsadda and Akseer Ali of Orakzai Agency, were arrested by police at Bannu Road railway crossing with 1,000 kilograms of explosives.

    During initial investigations the alleged terrorists revealed that they were carrying the explosives for construction of roads in the mountainous tribal area of Orakzai Agency.

    The private contractor had asked them to collect the explosives from Nowshera and bring the same to the tribal area but they could not present any permit, licence or official permission for transporting explosives in such a huge quantity.


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