Action at last

Friday, July 03, 2009
After a long wait, troops finally moved into the Kurram Agency, forcing a truce between warring tribes which have been locked in battle for over a fortnight. The battles, set against a backdrop of fierce sectarian animosity, feature the Toori tribe against Bangash tribe clansmen. There is however an additional complication: the Shia Toori tribe has set up a ‘Lashkar’ to battle militants linked to the Taliban. With the fighting now continuing for days, the Tooris called on authorities to move in and assist them.

This has eventually happened. But what is a mystery is why authorities waited so long to act, doing nothing at all to stop the violence that has wreaked havoc on the lives of people. Anti-Taliban ‘lashkars’ in Kurram have stated they had been desperate for help for many days. The delay in action is hardly likely to encourage people in other places to rise against the Taliban. Indeed the fact that the government seemed content to stand by and watch for so prolonged a period is likely to have just the opposite effect. The closure of the main road leading into Parachinar, the principal town of Kurram, is another reason why action should have come. For long durations over the past two years, the highway has remained shut, resulting in acute shortages of food and other supplies. This has resulted also in a spiraling in the prices of basic commodities. It seems like criminal neglect that this situation was allowed to continue for so long. The government owes an explanation to the people of Kurram, and indeed to all of us.

So far, 150 or so people, most of them militants, are said to have been killed in the fighting that has taken place with troops. Soldiers are now deployed in the area, hoping to maintain the peace. But is this enough? The Kurram area has key links into Afghanistan. Routes through it are used regularly by militants, according to the information available on their movements. It is therefore important to conduct an operation in it against the militants, and to make sure they are driven out of the area. It is also true that the people of Kurram have suffered far too many years of bloodshed. They need to be rescued from still further misery and mayhem. It is the duty of the government to ensure this happens, as part of a strategy against militants and as part of their responsibility to the people of Kurram.

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