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Daily Times
Thursday, March 31, 2011
COMMENT: More misery in Kurram —Dr Mohammad Taqi

As US pressure mounts on Pakistan to take action against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan, the need to relocate the jihadist assets to safe bases in Kurram has now become urgent

It had taken the Talib terrorist Nek Muhammad Wazir one day to renege on his April 2004 Shakai Treaty with the Pakistan Army. The September 2006 Miranshah Agreement between the Pakistani state and the warlords in North Waziristan lasted 10 months before the militants repudiated the deal in July 2007. The March 2007 deal between the government and the Taliban in Bajaur Agency was literally a nonstarter but was really dead by August of 2007. Then came the mother of all deals when, in May 2008, the Pakistani state inked the agreement with the murderous hordes of Mullah Fazlullah in Swat. While the people of Malakand knew from the word go that the Pakistani state had merely capitulated and there was no ‘agreement’ as such, the deal officially fell apart in April 2009. 

And here we are again: yet another peace agreement with the murderers lies in tatters on the Thall-Parachinar road. The peace accord between the various tribes of the Kurram Agency, held under the auspices of Khalil Haqqani of the Haqqani terrorist network, Pakistan’s Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik and, of course, the best-in-the-world intelligence agency, took less than two months to unravel. 

On March 25, 2011, three minibuses were on their way from Peshawar to Parachinar in the Upper Kurram Agency when they came under attack from terrorists who opened fire on the first vehicle. First, three men were asked to disembark and were then shot dead on the roadside. The terrorists boarded the vehicle and shot 10 others at point-blank range. The following two (three according to media reports) minibuses stopped as the driver of the lead vehicle panicked and attempted to leave. Forty-five passengers (the exact number remains unknown) were taken hostage by the gunmen. By one account, these hapless people were taken to North Waziristan. The terrorists then released 13 or 15 women and children, who were subsequently driven in a pickup vehicle to the FC fort in Thall. The majority of these men, women and children belong to the Shia Toori tribe.

The Toori convoy had entered Kurram Agency from the Chapari checkpost through the Thall tehsil of Hangu district. The Baggan area where the attack and abductions took place is about three miles from the Chapari checkpost inside Kurram Agency. It is pertinent to note that Baggan has remained a hotbed of Taliban activity and a source of revenue for the militants, sending monetary proceeds from the village fairs to Taliban groups in the Orakzai Agency next door. 

The MNA from Upper Kurram, Sajid Toori, has held the government and security forces responsible for the attack, and rightly so. The peace deal notwithstanding, it is perplexing, to say the least, that the government agencies would not escort a convoy that was a potential target for the terrorists, especially at night, when this particular attack happened. This is not the first time that the Toori tribesmen have come under attack after the February 3, 2011 peace deal. A few weeks ago, armed men from North Waziristan kidnapped 20 Shia residents of Kurram, whose whereabouts remain unknown to date. 

Sajid Toori is not that off the mark in his claim because this would not be the first time that the people of Upper Kurram have been targeted on the Pakistan Army’s watch. In January this year, a convoy of 24 trucks carrying food supplies, medicines and provisions for Upper Kurram was looted and then torched near the village Durrani, near Sadda in Lower Kurram. The Kurramis hold a Colonel Sajjad responsible for this attack on the convoy, which, ostensibly, was under the protection of the Kurram militia, to bring them to the negotiating table with the Taliban-Haqqani network.

While no militant group has taken responsibility for the present attack as yet, fingers are being pointed at the Taliban, especially at a group led by a Fazl-e-Saeed who hails from Uchat village in Lower Kurram. Sections of the media have reported that the Mangal tribe is supporting the Taliban and their overlords, the Haqqanis. The relationship of the Haqqanis with the Mangals is rather well known since the very start of the Taliban scourge in this part of FATA. Pockets of population in the Pir Qayyum area, near Sadda in Lower Kurram, were some of the earliest supporters of the Haqqani network. 

I had noted last month that the Pir Qayyum, Sateen and Shasho camp in Lower Kurram are active bases operated by the Haqqanis and the Taliban and free use of these facilities was never a problem for them. However, what they really need is an unhindered access to their bases in Tari Mangal, Mata Sangar (a reported hideout of Siraj Haqqani), Makhrani, Wacha Darra and Spina Shaga in Upper Kurram to launch attacks into Afghanistan during the upcoming summer fighting. Spina Shaga is also supposed to be a confluence point between Gulbuddin Hikmetyar and the Haqqani network, and massive activity has been reported at the compounds there in recent months. 

As US pressure mounts on Pakistan to take action against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan, it has got both the Haqqanis and the Pakistani security establishment concerned. The need to relocate the jihadist assets to safe bases in Kurram has now become urgent but the pace of developments in Kurram in the post-peace accord phase has not been to the liking of the establishment and its militant allies. While the Toori-Bangash tribes of Upper Kurram had agreed to a peace deal with other Kurramis, they never did offer any guarantees of free movement of the Haqqanis and Hizb-e-Islami across the Afghan border.

After battering the Kurramis one more time, the ‘chief-negotiator’ Khalil Haqqani has been inducted back into action on the pretext of ironing things out and salvaging the peace accord. He has now been conducting meetings with the Kurramis in Peshawar at Jan Hotel on Kohat Road. The deep state, through its jihadist proxies, has thus decided to ‘prod’ the Tooris into moving things along, and fast. 

As far as the deep state is concerned, the Kurram peace agreement was never designed to bring harmony between the Shia and Sunni tribes of Kurram. Like all the aforementioned agreements, the Kurram peace deal too is a tactical manoeuvre in the establishment’s strategy of hedging its bets in post-US Afghanistan. And, just like all previous agreements with the jihadists, this agreement — even if salvaged — will leave the Taliban strengthened and will mean more misery for Kurram. 

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com 
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