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 Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Just over a month after a peace deal between warring Shia and Sunni tribes had been negotiated by elders and key roads, including the highway to the town of Parachinar opened up, a bout of violence has placed the accord under jeopardy again. The ambush of several buses carrying Shia passengers from Peshawar to Kurram last week left 13 dead. Others were wounded and some 35 kidnapped. The inaccessibility of the region caught up in sectarian strife for so many years makes it impossible to say what the precise toll is. But, no matter what the figure, the number killed in Kurram in the last few years is far too high. Four more were added to this toll Sunday when a van carrying passengers from Afghanistan was hit by rockets. In the past, people cut off from the rest of the country by the closure of highways, have lived in a state of siege, unable to access medicines, healthcare and, at times, even food items. The basic needs of people, their desire to live in peace and their desire to resume normal activities make it imperative that everything possible be done to keep the accord intact. Even now, negotiations are said to be on to ensure this and there have been reports of the arrest of key militants in the area, believed to be involved in whipping up sectarian hatred. These arrests should perhaps have taken place earlier, before minds could be poisoned to this degree and so many difficulties created for people. The fact that hate based on belief has been allowed to fester in so many places is in many ways responsible for the dangers we face – both in Kurram and in other places.

There is another dimension to consider. The location of Kurram on the Pak-Afghan border, with inlets jutting into Afghan territory makes the agency strategically significant for militants engaged in fighting state forces. There is reason to suspect they wish to ensure Kurram remains in a state of anarchy – this would make it possible for them to use it as a point to cross without check into Afghanistan, and make it harder to capture the militants who have reduced the tribal belt to a war zone within which no one is safe.

 

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