Kurram Agency


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Protest camp: Parachinari youth still hopeful for a change of tide

Published: April 26, 2011
Protesters hold placards, hoping their elected representatives finally listen. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/EXPRESS
ISLAMABAD: 
Two years away from home, Muhammad Ali’s patience is running out. He wants the road leading to his home town opened now so that he could rejoin his family.
“My cousins are dead. The Taliban killed my loved ones and I could not even go to attend their funerals,” said Ali, one of the hundreds of youth from Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency, who are on a hunger strike against the closure of the Thal-Parachinar-Peshawar road for the last four years.
Hundreds of youth from Parachinar and adjoining areas of Upper Kurram Agency gathered in Islamabad four days ago. They established a camp in front of the National Press Club, hoping they might attract the attention of the government and the rights campaigners.
“No one from the government has shown up as yet. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and a few others came to the press club but none of them paid us a visit,” said Iqtidar.
Ali is a university student in Islamabad. He and his friends complained that the Taliban were chopping through their relatives like butchers. Whosoever tried to travel on the Thal road was targeted by the Taliban. Even convoys under military protection were not spared, they said.
“The other day they killed my cousin who was in army. We only received his mutilated remains,” said Mustafa. His cousin was one of the 41 people abducted by the Taliban on March 25 this year. The bodies of eight were handed over to their families two days ago.
Mustafa said the families had to pay for the bodies as well. “I fail to understand how they [Taliban] attack a convoy travelling under military protection, and that too in settled areas,” he added.
To a distant observer, it appeared to be a simple case of Taliban’s conventional vengeance against Shiites. But the Parachinar youth refused to believe that. A sectarian divide is being deliberately created. It is much more than a Shia-Sunni issue.
Upper Kurram is a Shia majority area while Lower Kurram is predominantly Sunni populated area. By now, only Upper Kurram is free from Taliban control.
“When we struck a federal government sponsored peace agreement with the Taliban a few months ago, people from the two sides of Kurram agency visited each other and roamed freely,” said Mustafa.
“But recently, some people have been creating disturbances. A group of miscreants openly abused our Imams in Parachinar Bazaar recently and the administration remained silent spactator despite our repeated appeals for action against them,” said Iftikhar Hussain.
He opined that the “Establishment is behind such tactics to instigate a Shia-Sunni clash.” Hussain and many others accused the establishment of wanting to launch the Taliban across into Afghanistan after the Americans exit.
“Hundreds of times we have offered our services to the army and government to fight against any enemy of Pakistan. Why do they need the Taliban when we were ready to give our blood for Pakistan’s security and its interests?”, asked a number of youth.
The young boys who had come from different parts of Pakistan to express their desire for the restoration of a road link from Peshawar to their hometown said that they loved Pakistan. However, they felt betrayed.
They said their loved ones were being brutally murdered; Taliban were besieging them, denying them access to the rest of the country, while the authorities look the other way. The only air service operating from the area is too expensive for a majority of the people, who feel like the private air company is exploiting the situation.
They remain hopeful of getting the attention of the authorities. Until then, they are not about to end their hunger camp in the Federal Capital anytime soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2011.
 

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Parachinar residents seek security

ISLAMABAD, April 25: After waiting for five years to visit his hometown, Ali Mohammad returned to the country from UAE last month, but all that was received by the family was his burned corpse, released three days back by suspected Taliban commanders after negotiations.

He along with 33 other passengers was kidnapped while going to Parachinar from Peshawar. Of them 13 were burnt and maimed and thrown on the roads. The fate of the rest is still unknown.
Like rest of the family members the excitement of Saqib Hasan faded away when he received the body of his cousin Ali Mohammad. But all he can do is to bury him in accordance with the religious rituals.
In sheer frustration and rage against the authorities, Saqib arrived in the federal capital on Monday to participate in the protest demonstration and sit-in at the Parliament against Taliban brutalities.
The participants narrated tales of sufferings faced by their family members at the hands of Taliban who have blocked the road leading to Parachinar, making severe shortage of fuel, food and medicines in the area.
“My brother’s leg had to be amputated only because he could not receive medical care in time,” said one protester, adding, “Six of my cousins have been killed by Taliban in last four years.”
The road between Peshawar and Parachinar is nearly 250-km but a patch of 25-30-km around Tal is the troubled spot.
Speakers at the protest demonstration held in front of National Press Club said Taliban were making unrest in the region and committing crimes against the Turi and Bangash tribes.
The organiser of the protest demonstration Sajid Hussain Bangash said that more than 2,200 Turi and Banghash tribesmen have been killed and over 5,000 injured by the Taliban in four years.
Later the residents of Parachinar staged a a token sit-in at D-Chowk opposite to the Parliament House where they were addressed by parliamentarians.
In his fiery speech, MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi, expressed sympathies with the residents of Parachinar.
“Our party will take up the issue with the president, prime minister and the interior minister,” he added.
Sajid Turi, MNA from the area announced to leave his seat in protest if the authorities failed to implement the peace accord between the Shia and Sunni tribes.
 

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Published: April 27, 2011
Marvi Memon came into politics under the patriarchal wings of Musharraf, but his fall has not aborted her growth. PHOTO: FILE
Most commentators do not take women parliamentarians seriously, especially those nominated to seats reserved for them in various legislative houses. It is widely believed that, spared the heat and dust of a directly contested election, these ‘token representatives’ remain clueless of ‘ground realities.’
However, since the year 2002 we have witnessed many of our women parliamentarians demolishing this dismissive perception with sweating homework and courageous association with human rights related issues.
Marvi Memon is an iconic example of this category. True, she came into politics under the patriarchal wings of military dictator Pervez Musharraf, but his fall has not aborted her growth.
During the elections for a newly formed Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly in early 2010, she savoured an intensive exposure to the rough and tumble of electoral battles. She also took lead in owning and promoting the cause of flood victims, and is always found amongst the front ranks of activists struggling for the marginalised in the feudal-dominated pockets of Sindh.
Speaking on point of order during Tuesday’s sitting, however, she left many of her admirers disappointed.
The sitting was reserved for individual initiatives for legislation. However, most of our representatives preferred wasting the day talking about ‘this or that’ issue of their constituency through the desultory raising of points of order.
Ms Memon availed the same opportunity and tried to agitate over the blockade of roads leading to Parachinar, which could have been passable – if she had finished there.
Unfortunately, a low level delegation from the US State of Georgia was present in the Speaker’s gallery and instead of welcoming the guests with the usual sweet talk, Memon decided to take them on with a vengeance.
Being well-educated, she did not need to be taught to fathom the fact that the ‘provincial level’ guests in the gallery have nothing to do with defence-related decisions made in Washington. Yet, she wailed over the “violation of our sovereignty” via drone attacks and finished her delirious diatribe with a comment that almost suggested that the Georgian legislators were not welcome in this country.
And all this while, she forgot to her convenience that only a while back she was moaning over the blockade of all roads to Parachinar. Obviously, the Americans have not blocked the route. Pakistanis cannot simply go there because some of our “strategic assets” from Afghanistan are obsessed with converting the area into another operational base for waging Jihad.
Sadly, drones are striking places that had already been denied to our state and people by the same assets.
Honing a would-be-populist in her, Ms Memon should perhaps not care for the fine and delicate details connected to a crowd swaying issue. One would still be willing to believe that she made the rude remarks in a ‘high’ state of mind that she must have been savouring since addressing the drone-preventing dharna that Imran Khan staged in Peshawar during the weekend.
Notwithstanding the venomous remarks and posturing of Ms Memon against the government and its friends in Washington, journalists and legislators, huddled in parliamentary lobbies and ministerial chambers, kept discussing the pros and cons of an ‘almost done deal’ between the PPP and the PML-Q.
Most keenly discussed was a newspaper report that had claimed that none other than the younger brother of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Wajahat, would end up in the Governor House of Lahore after the maturing of the said deal. Despite combing various sources, no confirmation was received regarding this piece of information.
However, a reliable source told me that a minister considered “too close to President Zardari” these days had ‘planted’ this news to upset “Kaira-types of dropped ministers”, reportedly eyeing for the interior ministry in their next turn to the cabinet.
The source also did not hesitate to share that ‘someone big’ from PML-Q seems ready for taking over the ministry of defence. The late Rao Sikandar Iqbal had asked for the same ministry from his hostel-friend, Musharraf, for leading a group of turncoats from the PPP for supporting the election of Jamali as the Prime Minister in 2002. With the additional title of a ‘senior minister’, he was given the requested portfolio, which he held on to until the completion of the term of Shaukat Aziz’s government.
The PIA board, I was told, is to begin meeting in Islamabad from April 27. For the first time, the national flag carrier is expected to announce ‘profits’ during the scheduled meeting. “At the end of which”, my source insisted, “Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar will submit his resignation from the ministry of defence to President Zardari, telling him that ‘I have achieved the task of turning around PIA’.”
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not saying that Chaudhry Mukhtar will quit the cabinet. No, no. He will just ‘vacate’ the ministry of defence for someone else, if my source proves to be right in the end.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2011.
 

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The Express Tribune

Hunger strike: Three days and counting

Published: April 24, 2011
Camped outside the National Press Club, the residents of Parachinar have gone on a hunger-strike to force the government to take action against the Taliban in their areas. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/EXPRESS
ISLAMABAD: 
More than two hundred young men from Parachinar have been camping outside the National Press Club in Islamabad for the past three days. They have been refusing to eat.
They want to know if the government really cannot open and secure the Parachinar-Thal-Peshawar Road closed for the last four years?
“Is Parachinar not part of Pakistan,” they ask.
Parachinar has a population of 0.5 million people and is the headquarters of Upper Kurram. According to the protesters, the city is being held hostage by a “handful” of Taliban, who could easily be eliminated if the establishment had the “will” to do so.
The youth vowed to continue their hunger strike until the government did something about their plight. The camp swelled up after the people of Upper Kurram on Friday received badly mutilated and burnt bodies of eight of the 41 people taken hostages by the Taliban on March 25 this year.
These people were taken hostage by the Taliban in violation of a peace agreement while they were travelling on Thal-Parachinar-Peshawar Road. The remaining 33 people are still being held captive by the Taliban.
“It was not the first violation of the peace accord by the Taliban. They have so far killed hundreds of Shiite people from Upper Kurram on the Thal Road,” said a young man in the camp.
Many of those protesting thought the government was not serious in its fight against the militants. “The establishment wants to launch these Taliban into Afghanistan at some point in time in future,” said an infuriated young boy.
He said there was only a pocket, a kilometre or so long, where the miscreants were present and were blocking the road and denying people in Upper Kurram access to Peshawar and the rest of the country.
Before the closure of Pak-Afghan border for security reasons in 2008, people of Upper Kurram were using the Afghanistan route to access Peshawar. But now they do not even have access to basic necessities of life.
“We ask why the government can not eliminate Taliban from our area if they could eliminate them from Malakand Agency and other tribal regions?” said Iftikhar Hussain, a student.
He said a sectarian divide was being deliberately created to launch people of two halves of Kurram Agency against each other. He said Taliban controlled Lower Kurram where the people had welcomed them with open arms.
But people in Upper Kurram were resisting them.
Hussain said, “We do not want to give Taliban access to our houses. We do not allow them to marry our women. And we do not want to become targets of drone attacks because of Taliban presence in our area.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2011.
 

 

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Saturday, April 23, 2011
PARACHINAR: Eight tribesmen belonging to the Turi and Bangash tribes kidnapped by the militants almost a month back and later beheaded were laid to rest in Alizai village amid touching scenes on Friday.

A large number of relatives, friends and well wishers attended the funeral prayers held in Parachinar. The sources said that the militants had burnt the captives after beheading them in their training centres in Ghulam Khan and Ghund Markaz areas in Kurram Agency. 

The militants kidnapped some 40 passengers belonging to the Turi and Bangash tribes on way to Parachinar, the agency headquarters of Kurram Agency, from Peshawar on March 25. Some of the slain tribesmen were identified as Mohammad Irfan, Irshad Ali, Said Laiq Hussain, Nauroz Ali, Ali Mohammad, Khalid Anwar and Nisar Hussain. 

Mohammad Irfan and Irshad Ali were students, Syed Laiq Hussain and Nauroz Ali were soldiers going home for holidays, the sources said. Ali Muhammad was returning home from the United Arab Emirates after three years. Meanwhile, complete shutdown was observed on the call of Turi and Bangash tribes in Parachinar to mourn the killings. 

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India Reloaded.TV

PAK militants brutally kill 8 Shias – WATCH debate on Shia-Sunni conflict

At least 8 of over 30 members of minority Shia community, taken hostage by militants in Pakistan’s restive tribal belt, have been killed and their bodies burnt by their abductors, media reports today said.
Pro-Taliban militants had abducted over 30 people during attacks on two convoys of vehicles carrying Shias in the Kurram tribal region on March 25.
There has been confusion about the exact number of people kidnapped, with some reports stating that 45 Shias were taken hostage.
Militants burnt the bodies of eight persons after ruthlessly slaughtering them, The Frontier Post newspaper quoted its sources as saying.
The mutilated bodies were handed over to members of the Shia Turi-Bangash tribe in Kurram Agency yesterday.
Another report, from the tribal region, said the militants beheaded the eight persons. The attack last month occurred despite a peace deal signed by rival Shia and Sunni tribesmen earlier this year.
It was widely reported that the Haqqani militant network based in North Waziristan tribal region was involved in brokering the deal.
Following the attack, the strategic Tall-Parachinar road, which connects Kurram Agency to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital Peshawar, was closed.
The local political administration, security forces and a grand tribal jirga could not succeed in recovering the kidnapped Shias despite several attempts to negotiate with the abductors. The militants freed five women and seven children.
Tension has gripped the region after the attack. Local residents have expressed their disappointment and criticised the political administration and law enforcement agencies for their failure to rescue the kidnapped people even after a lapse of nearly a month.
The Doha Debates held a couple of years ago had an interesting discussion on the internal strife in the muslim world between the shia and the sunni communities -
part 1.
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5.

SOURCE: 

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Govt must secure roads to Kurram Agency

Saturday 23rd April, 2011
ISLAMABAD: Tribal people from Kurram agency has vowed to continue their protest in Islamabad until roads to Parachinar is not secured and reopened.
This protest camp would continue till the only road from Peshawar to Parachinar is secured and reopened, addressing the protest demonstration organized by youth Parachinar on Friday evening here in front of the National Press Club Islamabd, the speakers said.
They demanded of the government to take concrete steps for releasing the 41 kidnapped people of Turi tribe. They claimed that the 41 people were kidnapped from Bagan area of Lower Kurram agency on March 25 when as they said militants attacked three vehicles in the area killing three people. “8 dead decomposed bodies of the kidnapped persons were sent to Parachinar the other day,” they claimed.
They said that in 2008 a peace truce between the warring tribes was agreed in Mari followed by several jirgas in which Interior Minister Rehman Malik also participated and assured implementation of the pacts. But all the promises proved hollow, they said, and no action was taken against the violators of the peace truce.
They said that communication to the area was suspended in 2007 and it is still persisting that make life almost impossible in the area and Kurram Agency lacks medicines as well as other basic amenities of life. Earlier, people of the area used areas of Afghanistan for travel to Peshawar but travel via Afghanistan also become very risky for the last year.
They demanded of the government to recollect Kurram militia deployed and other areas and redeploy it in the agency. They also stressed for restoration of the suspended PIA flights to the area and mobile service.

 

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