Last month, the fake story of Shams Ul Anwer went viral on social media and caught the attention of well known human right activists and media spoke people. Once again Pakistanis united in supporting the victim before realizing it was all concocted drama. Rather than being totally disappointed, it gave me slight hope that, perhaps, despite that the story was fake, it did capture the collective imagination, and there are hundreds of similar stories in reality. For the last four five years, the people of FATA and Kurram Agency, in particular, have been worse victims of such kidnappings and killings. Unfortunately, the real stories are not so quickly seized by activists and journalists and taken up as a cause but perhaps, it seems there may be a way to get through the conspiracy of silence and media blockade concerning the real stories.
Before the War on Terror, Kurram Agency was one of the peaceful areas of FATA, taking pride in having the highest literacy level among all Agencies. Although there were cases of sectarian conflicts that broke out every ten years or so, these would not last for more than a week and these would soon be resolved by Jirgas. After the War on Terror began, however, these sectarian conflicts now extended to four years, killing thousands of people, destroying communities, closing down and blocking the roads, ultimately affecting every socioeconomic and cultural aspect of life.
We were left with nothing but a state of emergency. Perviz Musharaf quotes in his book that, “If he had not allowed America to attack Afghanistan, Pakistan would be sent to Stone Age.” But, we were, in fact, sent to the Stone Age. The only road leading to Parachinar was closed by Taliban, convoys escorting to Parachinar were ambushed and killed, kidnappings of Turi people became commonplace occurrences. Most of of those kidnapped would either be killed or released by paying huge ransoms. After these huge losses, the Turi people started to travel through an alternative route through Afghanistan, but this route also was not safe as it passed right through the stronghold of Taliban. Here, too, Turis were attacked and killed, the most recent case took place during Ramadan, killing five men along with a woman. After traveling through Afghanistan, through Khyber Agency, Turis were kidnapped and killed by Ansar Ul Islam and other terrorist groups.
Most students and professionals from Parachinar reside in Peshawar to study and here too, they were not exempted from attack. Professionals like Dr. Mumtaz was kidnapped from his clinic, held captive for six months. Recently, Dr. Syed Jamal, a cardiologist was kidnapped from his house and killed after two months in captivity. His body was thrown somewhere in Jamrod, in Khyber Agency. I have been told scores of stories like these, there is hardly a village in Kurram Agency or a neighbor or a family whose loved one has not been kidnapped.
I would like to share two more cases, unreported, here: On the 3 March, 2011 two teen boys named Ajmal Hussain, son of Wazir Ali and Akmal Hussain, son of Mashook Ali, were grazing cows on the river side in Lower Kurram Agency when they were kidnapped by unknown persons and are still missing until now. The fathers of both teens traveled twice to Khost, Afghanistan following any leads on their missing sons. Alas, the information regarding Khost was incorrect. It’s been almost a year and the kidnappers have not demanded a ransom, they fathers are very poor and in deep pain. They say whenever any event or celebration comes; it reminds remind them of their son. If they are not alive, at least they should show them their graves, so that they no more wait for them.
Another story is about Qaiser Hussain who completed a Masters in Physics from Peshawar University, who was abducted on 25 March along with thirty two other Turi tribesmen, When Taliban attacked a convoy near Bagan Lower Kurram Agency, killing five and kidnapping thirty three, these 33 tribesmen were abducted by different factions of Taliban. Twenty two of them were with Mullah Tofan who is TTP chief commander of Orakzai Agency and were released by him two months later after the paying of huge ransoms. The other group of ten tribesmen was with local commander Noor, who killed them and buried them somewhere near Pak-Afghan border. Their coffins were sent two months later to Parachinar, with the names of the dead written on their coffins. Qaiser Hussain’s name and coffin was not included. The Taliban contacted Qaiser Hussain’s family, stating that Qaiser was alive and demanded 13 lacs rupees for his release. When the money was arranged and delivered, Qaiser was not released. Qaiser should be released as 3crore in ransom has been paid to the Taliban. He was not released in October 2011, when Grand Jirga was arranged to rehabilitate IDPS. Qaiser’s father wrote an appeal to all the political representatives and other Jirga members asking them not to sign any agreement until Qaiser was released. This request was not upheld and accepted by the Jirga members, instead, they went ahead and signed agreements. Qaiser’s family is still waiting for their son. The now request and appeal that every responsible Pakistani with a conscience, to stand up and help and support them for the release and safe return of their son.