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Tribal disputes in Kurram

In an unusual move in May 2010 the Commandant of the Kurram Scouts convened a tribal jirga of both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders to repatriate displaced families to their native areas and to implement the Murree agreement signed in November 2008. The agreement asks for armed tribal groups to vacate their positions, the repatriation of IDPs and supply of food and medicine to the affected areas. The government has failed to implement the agreement and people of Kurram continue to suffer in violence.

Now, the commandant has initiated a move to make peace in the area. But tribal leaders have serious reservations over the move. The commandant never consulted the political agent of the agency and he has no legal authority to convene such a jirga although he insists he has been ‘given’ authority to do so. He invited controversial non-locals to the jirga, such as Javed Ibrahim Paracha who is not from Fata but from Kohat and is known to harbour sectarian views and is considered close to militants. The Shia tribesmen hold him responsible for the sufferings in the area and accuse him of sheltering al Qaeda elements. The Sunnis consider him an intruder who poisons their relationship with their Shia compatriots for his
vested interests.

The commandant offered that 200 Sunni IDP families from Parachinar be accommodated in the Akhtar Academy building. Sunni tribal leaders asked the commandant to accommodate them in an area in Parachinar since the city was said to be under the federal government’s writ. The commandant disagreed and threatened to take requisite action against those tribal leaders who would not comply. The Sunni tribal leaders said that it was in the presence of the former commandant that many of their people were killed and the rest displaced from their homes, so it was hard for them to trust the current one. They also felt that the commandant was putting them in an awkward situation. Once back in Parachinar they would be vulnerable to heavily armed sectarian groups. This would provide an excuse to the military to start operations in Parachinar. The commandant had offered a plan to rehabilitate the Turi Bangash in Sadda Town in Kurram on their properties — the Turi were pushed out of their properties because of sectarian fighting way back in the 1980s. The commandant had tried to construct gates on roads leading to villages. The local Shia tribesmen demonstrated against the construction and under public pressure the commandant abandoned the plan.

The crisis in Kurram and the rest of Fata is beyond the capacity of the local commandants and political agents. Everything they do simply adds to the sufferings. The president of Pakistan should implement the Political Parties Act in the area so that disputes can be resolved through local political leadership. Intelligence agencies must stop using the area as a strategic space for its ‘great games’.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 6th, 2010.

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