December 2010


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The Nation Newspaper Pakistan

Thursday, December 30, 2010

At least 20 suspected militants killed, 25 injured in Kurram Agency

At least 20 militants have been killed and 25 wounded in recent offensive launched by the security forces against the militants in Kurram Agency.

According to media reports, in gunship helicopters’ shelling 20 miscreants were killed and 25 injured, a vehicle full of ammunition was also destroyed in the attack at Chanarak, Kurram Agency. According to authorities the Death toll could rise. Meanwhile six people have been killed and numerous wounded in a clash between two groups in Central Kurram. Reason of conflict is yet to be found.


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Al Qaida-allied Afghan fighters seek new Pakistan haven

PARACHINAR, Pakistan_ The Haqqani network, an extremist group close to Al Qaida that has mounted devastating attacks in Afghanistan, is attempting to move into a new safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region as a base for attacks on U.S.-led forces across the border, according to leaders of a Pakistani tribe based here.

The Haqqanis, who have a history of close ties to the Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, have undertaken negotiations with the main tribe here, the Turi, that the Turi say would open the way for the move from their current base at Miramshah, North Waziristan, into the adjacent Kurram Agency, 80 miles to the north.

The Turi say they have repeatedly rebuffed the Haqqanis, most recently in a meeting earlier this month in Islamabad between tribal elders and the brother of the founder of the Haqqani network.

The Turi, who live in and around Parachinar, capital of Kurram, on the western tip of the district, bordering Afghanistan, say they don’t want extremists on their lands or for their area to be used against NATO or the government of Pakistan. They complain bitterly that the Pakistani government has given them neither support nor protection in an inter-tribal struggle that has pitted them against the Pakistani Taliban, who seek the overthrow of the state.

“We don’t differentiate between (Pakistani) Taliban, Haqqani and Al Qaida. They are all the same to us,” Sajid Hussain Turi, a member of the federal parliament for Kurram, told a McClatchy reporter who visited Kurram in late December.

Kurram is one of seven agencies in Pakistan’s tribal belt, a lawless buffer zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it’s been in a state of internal conflict for at least six years. An old sectarian rivalry between the Turi, who are from the minority Shiite sect of Islam, and their local competitors, the Mangals, who are Sunnis, has turned into a titanic struggle after the Pakistani Taliban entered in 2007 and threw their big guns behind the Mangals. Now the Haqqani network is involved as well.

Both the Pakistani Taliban — the TTP, for Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) — and Haqqani follow an extreme version of Sunni Islam. The Turi say they’re now engaged in an existential struggle against the Pakistani Taliban, who along with the Mangals have cut their lands off from Pakistan proper. The conflict has cost the lives of more than 1,200 Turi over the last four years, Turi elders said.

The Haqqanis’ apparent attempt to move into Kurram almost certainly is the result of U.S. drone attacks against the sanctuary they inhabit in North Waziristan and the threat of a future offensive by the Pakistani army. The U.S. government, attempting to disrupt the Afghan insurgency, has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive to clear extremists out of North Waziristan. The Haqqani network fights alongside the Afghan Taliban but has no permanent base inside Afghanistan.

The Haqqanis claim not to be part of the conflict in Kurram and have pursued their quest for a base here by offering to mediate between the Mangals and the Turi. Recent media reports suggest that Siraj, son of Haqqani’s group’s founder, Jalaluddin, and now the leader of the group, moved to Kurram in the autumn.

While most of the tribal area is a wild, illiterate place, run under tribal custom, Kurram, unusually, is predominantly Shiite Muslim, with the Turi tribe comprising about 300,000 of the 500,000 people of the agency. Almost uniquely in the tribal area, education is widespread, and the area is relatively well developed, with some wide valleys of flat fertile agricultural land and functioning schools. The Turi oasis in the tribal area, around Parachinar, feels more like the rest of Pakistan, rather than the primitive conditions and gun culture of most of the tribal area.

The Turi are blockaded into the westernmost part of Kurram, around Parachinar. Together, the Mangals and the Pakistani Taliban control the main road that connects Parachinar to the east to the “settled” parts of Pakistan under normal rule. Two years ago, assailants, using chainsaws, beheaded and dismembered eight Turi men, while they were still alive, as they attempted to use the road to reach the rest of Pakistan. Their body parts were left in sacks along the main road, Turi elders said, showing gruesome photographic evidence.

The Turi have suffered brutal attacks, been killed by landmines laid by the Taliban, and faced a shortage of food and other supplies, price of which have skyrocketed as a result of the blockade, while education and other services have deteriorated. In September, an attack on Khaiwas village, just outside Parachinar, left 89 Turi dead, according to a tally of victims kept by Haidri Blood Bank, a local non-governmental organization.

Since 2007, the Turi have been forced to take a risky 230-mile trip through Afghanistan, via Gardez, Kabul and Jalalabad, just to enter Pakistan, at Peshawar, but the Pakistani military closed the border in October, citing the risk of Afghan incursions, which further isolated the tribe. They now rely on travelling in a weekly or biweekly convoy guarded by the Pakistani military, to reach the rest of Pakistan, or a tiny air service that runs an expensive six-seat plane from Peshawar to Parachinar.

“Pakistan should be ashamed. We are the most loyal tribe in Pakistan but for four years we’ve got nothing, while other areas get help with floods and earthquakes,” said Hamid Hussain, a Turi elder in Parachinar. “Our only sin is that we are Shia (Shiite).”

The Turi have managed to force the Pakistani Taliban and their Mangal tribal allies out of the upper Kurram area, but the extremists are still present in lower Kurram, which connects to Pakistan, and in the mountains of central Kurram, tribal elders said.

Enter the Haqqani network, which offered this month to guarantee a peace deal between the Turi and Mangal tribes and to open the road from Parachinar to the rest of Pakistan.

In return, the Turi believe that the Haqqanis want use of Kurram in order to attack Afghanistan. Six Turi tribal elders who were party to negotiations with the Mangals and Haqqani, emphatically denied rumors that they had already agreed to give Haqqani safe passage through their area, saying they could never allow it after suffering so many deaths of Turi civilians.

The Turi met Ibrahim Haqqani twice, according to several Turi who attended. The first meeting was in Peshawar in September and the second in Islamabad in the first week of December, at a house in the Barakau suburb of the provincial capital. At the Peshawar meeting, the Turi sought help to free six members of their tribe who had been kidnapped by the TTP, and Haqqani subsequently got them freed.

Turi elders travelled to Islamabad this month for what they thought would be a meeting with their rival Mangal tribe. However, they were shocked to find that the Mangals were apparently being directed by Ibrahim Haqqani from behind the scenes. Ibrahim Haqqani eventually met directly with them, according to Hamid Hussain, Niaz Muhammad and Iqbal Hussain Turi, three Turi elders who were present.

“We told them (Ibrahim Haqqani and associates) that we don’t recognize Al Qaida and Taliban. They said they wanted to mediate our dispute (with the Mangal tribe). But who are they to be part of these talks? Our people will never accept them,” said Niaz Muhammad, speaking in his village in upper Kurram.

Muhammad said that, had they agreed to Haqqani as a mediator, it would have given the militant group the entry to Kurram they were seeking.

“We won’t let our area be used against anyone, not NATO, not Pakistan,” said Muhammad.

The government administration in Kurram declined to comment, and Pakistan’s chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, did not return calls seeking a comment.

While Pakistan has been widely accused of aligning itself with the Haqqanis, who seek to topple the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, it is fighting the TTP, which seeks to topple the Pakistani government. But the Haqqanis, while abjuring any attacks on the Pakistani state, seem to be working closely with the TTP, first in North Waziristan and now in Kurram. Pakistan denies supporting any Afghan insurgent groups.

“We don’t want to be sacrificed to some strategic ends,” said Iqbal Hussain Turi, a tribal elder who attended the meeting with Ibrahim Haqqani. “We have spoilt Pakistan’s plans for Haqqani.”

The Turi say the Haqqani network wants access to their area because of its strategic position. Kurram juts into Afghanistan, providing access to three eastern provinces, Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar, and its border is just 55 miles from Kabul. Osama bin Laden is said to have escaped Afghanistan in 2001 via Tora Bora, which lies just across the hills from Parachinar, to Pakistan through Kurram.

Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, an independent research organization based in Washington, said the Haqqanis’ previous ability to carry out terror strikes in Kabul, from their base in North Waziristan, had been restricted by NATO’s operations across the border, so the group could be looking for another route to the Afghan capital.

“For Haqqani, Kurram could, at least in part, be about finding another way to get to Kabul. It’s in Kabul where Haqqani is really serving the interests of his masters in the ISI and the army, which is striking Indian targets,” Dressler said.

In September, U.S. helicopters based in Afghanistan crossed the border into Kurram chasing insurgents, including an incident around the village of Teri Mangal village in which the helicopters mistakenly fired on a Pakistani border post, killing two soldiers. Local residents say that the militants, possibly the Haqqani group, have a camp at Teri Mangal. U.S. missile strikes in the tribal area this year have targeted North Waziristan almost exclusively, focused on suspected Haqqani members and their local allies.

 

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Time to rescue the people of Parachinar

The writer is a PPP MNA and a member of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights

Parachinar used to be called ‘a paradise on Earth’. Despite its natural beauty and strategic importance, Parachinar is presently in a dire state due to sectarian violence initially instigated by the negative policies of former president Ziaul Haq. The residents of Parachinar, predominantly Shia, have been the target of jihadi entities and this has been the primary cause of sectarian clashes there. This violence has transformed the once beautiful land into ruins, completely destroying infrastructure. The main road connecting Peshawar to Parachinar has been blocked by sectarian extremists who have been brutally killing travellers to and from Parachinar.

Local people have been forced to travel through dangerous routes via Afghanistan and back into Peshawar just to purchase daily rations and essential items. Today, even that route has been closed, effectively cutting them off from the rest of Pakistan. This has caused local merchants to raise prices of staple foods such as flour, ghee, sugar and rice up to six times. There is also a tremendous shortage of basic medical supplies and essential life-saving drugs in Parachinar, in addition to a scarcity of proper medical facilities and staff in the area. The youth of Parachinar are worse off since the lack of even basic education has meant that most schools in the area have remained closed for a long time. In the past few decades, the Shias of Kurram Agency have suffered greatly. This started when General Zia relocated the local Kurram militia from Parachinar to other agencies, upsetting the century-old tradition of keeping a local officer in the militia’s hierarchy or as a political administrator.

When the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, the situation got much worse for Kurram agency. And, after their defeat in 2001, a large number of Taliban, along with al Qaeda members, fled to the bordering tribal areas in Pakistan, settling in regions in upper Kurram dominated by Shia tribes. This resettlement became a flashpoint and the oppression of the locals multiplied when, five years ago, the Taliban blockaded the only road that connects Parachinar with Thal — the first town in the settled area. This affected trade and downgraded the social life of the people, strangulating their livelihood. Consequently, they found it difficult to safeguard their families and find jobs, decent food and sometimes even basic medicines.

The situation of Parachinar is only getting worse. The people of Parachinar still remember, with deep affection, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed as they focused on the betterment of this desperately poor and deprived area in order to strengthen its resources by the rehabilitation of its schools, colleges, hospitals and medical facilities. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto also directed PIA to have a flight connecting Parachinar and Peshawar on a weekly basis at an affordable fare. This stopped during former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure and needs to be reinstated urgently. Currently, only a few wealthy residents of Parachinar are able to afford a flight to Peshawar through a private plane service and it charges a high fare. It is time for us to step forward to rescue the people of Parachinar.

Published in The Express Tribune December 25th, 2010.

 

source: http://tribune.com.pk/story/94391/time-to-rescue-the-people-of-parachinar/

 

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Saturday, December 25, 2010
 
By Mazhar Tufail
ISLAMABAD: If the government goes for a military operation in the volatile North Waziristan Agency, the political leadership of the country will have to face the music as the politicians will be the prime target of retaliatory attacks by militants, it transpired in conversation with a number of tribal elders in the region.

Amid conflicting media reports, particularly those appearing in the US media, about launch of military operation in North Waziristan, the residents of the tribal district are extremely angered and perturbed, this correspondent noted when he travelled this week from Islamabad to NWA via Kurram Agency and Razmak to gather firsthand information about the situation prevailing in the area. The visit was particularly aimed at seeking views of the tribesmen about the situation arising out of a possible military operation. It was noted during the visit that besides the elderly tribesmen, the young people are also seriously worried.

One thing which became crystal clear during this visit was that it does not matter to the residents of the tribal areas whether there is a democratic rule or a dictatorial regime. It was noted that the top priority of the tribesmen is to strengthen the tribal system and to stick to the local customs and traditions.

Interestingly, one thing which was particularly noted during this visit was that people of NWA have positive opinion about and special affection with the Pakistan Army. Although, the tribesmen and tribal elders of North Waziristan have negative views about General (R) Pervez Musharraf, their views about Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani are positive and believe that he is undoubtedly a combatant general.

Perhaps, this perception of General Kayani is because of the extremely brave nature of the tribesmen, as arms are their real life. The people of NWA consider a newborn lucky if the expensive arms are given to him on his birth. Whether the death of a person occurs in a drone strike or one dies a natural death, the women, children and elderly don’t shed tears as they accept it as will of God.

The average age of the residents of NWA, having dangerously high mountains and the astonishing mountain passes, is surprisingly much longer than people of any other region of Pakistan. This correspondent met several tribesmen who were 90 or above 90 but they were very active and fit. They strongly believe in Allah and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Religious schools are established in vast compounds where children are imparted only religious education until they become young guys.

Whereas the tribesmen of NWA are good religious scholars and have the largest representation in Tableeghi Jamaat, they are also very beautiful and proficient horse riders and their horses move very swiftly in mountain passes. The centuries-old communication means are still used there and mules are used for the purpose. The intelligence system in the region is strong to an astonishing extent. The unique feature of the houses of common tribesmen built 50 years or more ago have internal tunnels.

The residents of NWA have relationships across the border in Afghanistan and have very small number of relatives in the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Arms are common and so easy to acquire of which a common Pakistani even can’t think. For their livelihood, the people of NWA depend only on trade in the goods smuggled from Afghanistan and their upward transportation to other parts of Pakistan.

These people are completely different from common Pakhtuns. The political administration exists but to a specific level. These tribesmen, who speak Pashto in a pleasing manner, have great respect in their hearts for Lieutenant General (R) Hamid Gul, former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence, and have serious complaints against the political leadership of Pakistan. They have made different companions of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) their role model and they love the Islamic teachings and jihad very much.

The most hated countries of the NWA residents are India and the United States. Majority of foreigners in NWA are Chechen and Uzbek Muslims while a small number of Chinese Muslims are also there. These tribesmen, who do not accept any sort of dictation from others, have positive views about the Pakistan Army but have serious complaints against the political leadership.

According to them, if any operation is launched in North Waziristan to fulfil the desire of the United States, the politicians, who would support in the parliament any such operation, would be real and easy target for the people of NWA because they don’t know how to forgive and forget.

The NWA people have serious complaints against the top leadership of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) while they have great respect for the former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed and incumbent JI head Syed Munawwar Hassan. According to them, only these two leaders raise voice against the US drone attacks.

When this correspondent asked some elderly tribesmen that what would happen if a military operation is launched in NWA, they quickly said in that case Pakistan would be no more because the youth of NWA would take revenge from the Pakistani elite in such a manner, which cannot be described in words. During conversation with tribesmen about any operation in NWA, this correspondent noted unanimity of views that no military operation can succeed in their area because of difficult terrain. During the visit, this correspondent noted that if an action by fighter jets and helicopters is not impossible, it is certainly extremely difficult for the fighter jets and helicopters to successfully hit their targets. The terrain is so difficult that even a ground operation also seems impossible as the invading force might suffer colossal loss of lives.

The presence of an alien in the area can’t be concealed for a long period and on the basis of this fact, it could be judged easily as to why no foreigner has so far tried to forcibly enter the region. The views of the young tribesmen were very strong and clear that if the Pakistani parliament took a decision meant to please the US authorities, the very existence of the parliament would face a serious threat and how much destruction would occur in Pakistan could be judged only by meeting with the residents of NWA.

source: http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=22151&Cat=2
 

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  • Saturday, 12.25.10

Tribe trying to keep out al Qaeda allies

An embattled Pakistani tribe hopes to fend off an extremist group that wants to move into its territory.

McClatchy News Service

The Haqqani network, an extremist group close to al Qaeda that has mounted devastating attacks in Afghanistan, is attempting to move into a new safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region as a base for attacks on U.S.-led forces across the border, according to leaders of a Pakistani tribe based here.

The Haqqanis, who have a history of close ties to the Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, have undertaken negotiations with the main tribe here, the Turi, that the Turi say would open the move from their current base at Miramshah, North Waziristan, into the adjacent Kurram Agency, 80 miles to the north.

The Turi say they have repeatedly rebuffed the Haqqanis, most recently in a meeting earlier this month in Islamabad between tribal elders and the brother of the founder of the Haqqani network.

The Turi, who live in and around Parachinar, capital of Kurram, on the western tip of the district bordering Afghanistan, say they don’t want extremists on their lands or for their area to be used against NATO or the government of Pakistan.

LITTLE SUPPORT

They complain bitterly that the Pakistani government has given them neither support nor protection in an inter-tribal struggle that has pitted them against the Pakistani Taliban, who seek the overthrow of the state.

“We don’t differentiate between [Pakistani] Taliban, Haqqani and al Qaeda. They are all the same to us,” Sajid Hussain Turi, a member of the federal parliament for Kurram, told a McClatchy reporter who visited Kurram in late December.

Kurram is one of seven agencies in Pakistan’s tribal belt, a lawless buffer zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it has been in a state of internal conflict for at least six years. An old rivalry between the Turi, who are from the minority Shiite sect of Islam, and their local competitors, the Mangals, who are Sunnis, has turned into a titanic struggle after the Pakistani Taliban entered in 2007 and threw their big guns behind the Mangals. Now the Haqqani network is involved as well.

Both the Pakistani Taliban– the TTP, for Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) — and Haqqani follow an extreme version of Sunni Islam. The Turi say they’re now engaged in an existential struggle against the Pakistani Taliban, who along with the Mangals have cut their lands off from Pakistan proper.

MANY DEATHS

The conflict has cost the lives of more than 1,200 Turi over the last four years, Turi elders said.

The Haqqanis’ apparent attempt to move into Kurram almost certainly is the result of U.S. drone attacks against the sanctuary they inhabit in North Waziristan and the threat of a future offensive by the Pakistani army.

The U.S. government, attempting to disrupt the Afghan insurgency, has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive to clear extremists out of North Waziristan. The Haqqani network fights alongside the Afghan Taliban but has no permanent base inside Afghanistan.

The Haqqanis claim not to be part of the conflict in Kurram and have pursued their quest for a base here by offering to mediate between the Mangals and the Turi. Recent media reports suggest that Siraj, son of Haqqani’s group’s founder, Jalaluddin, and now the leader of the group, moved to Kurram in the autumn.

While most of the tribal area is a wild, illiterate place, run under tribal custom, Kurram, unusually, is predominantly Shiite Muslim, with the Turi tribe comprising about 300,000 of the 500,000 people of the agency. Education is widespread, and the area is relatively well developed, with some wide valleys of flat fertile agricultural land and functioning schools. The Turi oasis in the tribal area, around Parachinar, feels more like the rest of Pakistan, rather than the primitive conditions and gun culture of most of the tribal area.

The Turi are blockaded into the westernmost part of Kurram, around Parachinar. Together, the Mangals and the Pakistani Taliban control the main road that connects Parachinar to the east to the “settled” parts of Pakistan under normal rule. Two years ago, assailants, using chain saws, beheaded and dismembered eight Turi men, while they were still alive, as they attempted to use the road to reach the rest of Pakistan. Their body parts were left in sacks along the main road, Turi elders said.

The Turi have suffered brutal attacks, been killed by land mines laid by the Taliban and faced a shortage of food and other supplies, prices of which have skyrocketed as a result of the blockade, while education and other services have deteriorated.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/25/1988052/tribe-trying-to-keep-out-al-qaeda.html#ixzz197gBrAC6

 

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Thall-Parachinar road safe for travel: ISPR


Buner ap 543 Thall Parachinar road safe for travel: ISPR

Sajid Hussain Turi, an MNA from Kurram Agency, told Dawn that the road was still unsafe for traffic, adding that passengers could use the road only when travelling in convoys and security personnel escorted them. – Photo by AP (File)

RAWALPINDI: The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has claimed that Thall-Parachinar road has been made safe for all types of traffic.

In a statement it said that security forces would never allow terrorists and their sympathisers to use the road and rejected a perception that it was under the control of local Taliban.

But Sajid Hussain Turi, an MNA from Kurram Agency, told Dawn that the road was still unsafe for traffic, adding that passengers could use the road only when travelling in convoys and security personnel escorted them.

“Our tribal people cannot even dare travel on Thall-Parachinar road. They are being given false assurances about the safety of the road. Recently, six tribesmen were kidnapped by the Taliban while travelling on this road,” he said.

Mr Turi said that people were still negotiating with various tribal groups for making the road secure.

The ISPR issued the statement in response to a report that said local commanders of the Haqqani group and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan were negotiating with Kurram elders and that the road would be reopened on the condition that Turi tribes would not hinder the movement of militants on it.

source: http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/05/thall-parachinar-road-safe-for-travel-ispr-2.html

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