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Afghan govt, Nato mediating between Kurram factions
By Zulfiqar Ali
Sunday, 24 May, 2009 | 07:49 PM PST |
 
PESHAWAR: Afghan government and Nato officials have started mediations between rival groups of the Kurram tribal region as the government sponsored jirga gave up efforts to resolve the simmering dispute.
 
Members of a Shia organisation protest the killing of their community members in sectarian violence in Kurram Agency.—AP/File
 
PESHAWAR: Afghan government and Nato officials have started mediations between rival groups of the Kurram tribal region as the government sponsored jirga gave up efforts to resolve the simmering dispute.

Sources said that Nato and Afghan officials have invited elders of the rival factions from the Upper Kurram to a military base in Shehr Nau, near the Pakistan border in Paktia province, for negotiations on Saturday last. The talks, according to these sources ended without any agreement or conclusion.

‘Both sides have already held first round of talks at the same place some five days ago. A senior military officer of Nato and Afghan officials were present in the meeting,’ said a tribal elder who had participated in talks.

After the first round of talks, both factions were invited for the second round on Saturday, but talks remained inconclusive, he said.

Shehr Nau, is a small town just 40 kilometers off the Pakistan border where Nato and Afghan forces have set up joint base.

Kurram Agency, surrounded by Afghanistan from three sides, is the most sensitive part of Fata and located only 200 kilometers away from the Afghan capital Kabul.

Nato did not deny facilitating talks between the rival groups. In information communicated to Dawn through email, the Press Office at the headquarters of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul said that ISAF has troops that operated in eastern Afghanistan. However the ISAF mandate remains within Afghanistan’s border.

The Press Office said: ‘ISAF recognizes that some tribal/factional issues can transcend the border, however we would like to emphasize that Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are the lead agencies in any talks in this area – and indeed in all issues pertaining to Afghanistan.’

The statement further clarified: ‘ISAF is here to support—if required – Afghan government inside the border of Afghanistan. All ISAF troops operate appropriately to help the people of Afghanistan.’

Sources said that Sunni tribal elders hailing from Bushara and other areas in Upper Kurram had complained to the Afghan and Nato forces that rival Turi tribesmen had blocked their movement and blocked transportation of edible items to the stranded families.

They requested the Afghan authorities to force the Turi tribesmenm who are in majority in Upper Kurram, to remove economic blockade or stop supply of food and non-food items to them via Afghanistan.

The inhabitants of the Upper Kurram region have been relying on Afghanistan for food and medicines since 2008. The main highway to the area has been blockaded as a result of sectarian clashes and kidnappings and attacks on Turi tribesmen in Lower Kurram and adjacent settled areas. Residents of Parachinar have been travelling to Peshawar and Islamabad via Kabul and Jalalabad.

Tribal sources said that Nato and Afghan authorities had invited elders of Turi tribe for talks to Shehr Nau base last week. A source said that during meeting a senior NATO officer wearing name badge ‘Make or Mike’ directed the elders: ‘If you don’t provide safe access to the residents of Bushara and other hamlets and allow food supply then your movement and food supply via Afghanistan can be suspended.’

Elders of Turi tribe on this occasion demanded safety from Sunnis on Thall-Parachinar road and in settled areas. They denied that residents of Bushara were not getting food and other essential commodities.

They were of the view that unless militants were expelled from certain pockets of Lower Kurram and safe passage provided to the Turis both inside and outside Kurram region nobody can guarantee safety in Upper Kurram.

Turi tribesmen have also demanded release of 15 persons who were kidnapped from Tore Gher near Thall of Hangu district some three months ago.

A jirga led by former federal minister Malik Waris Khan Afridi has returned to Peshawar after spending two months in Kurram to find out an amicable solution of the situation in the area which had witnessed bloody clashes in 2007 and 2008. Over 3000 people from both sides had been killed and thousands of families had displaced from the region.

Elders of both sides signed peace agreements in Murree and Islamabad last year according to which main road would be opened and displaced people would be rehabilitated in their own areas. But the peace deal has not been implemented so far.

Malik Waris Khan when approached told Dawn that safety on Thall-Parachinar road and release of 15 kidnapped people had become the bottle neck in the peace process in Kurram. He said that the jirga had proposed to the government to fulfill its responsibilities and deployed paramilitary forces in Tore Ghar area near Thall to stop kidnapping of passengers.

Not only passengers were kidnapped but the sitting political agent Arshad Majeed Mohmand was also attacked in the same area but he survived. One guard was killed and eight were wounded in the attack.

Malik Waris expressed satisfaction over talks with rival groups and said that elders of Kurram representing all tribes would be brought to Peshawar for a meeting with Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani in next few days in which all demands would be presented. He said that government should compensate displaced families and announce package for the area.

 

 

SOURCE: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/09-afghan-govt-nato-mediating-between-kurram-factions-szh–02

 

 

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