Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kurram Agency violence

Kurram Agency violence
Tuesday, 30 Jun, 2009 | 01:16 AM PST
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UNLESS tackled with all the seriousness the bloodletting demands, the situation in Kurram Agency could get out of hand and have wider repercussions. More menacingly, the Taliban have made their deadly presence felt. Clashes over the weekend between rival tribes led to at least 36 more deaths, the total from 12 days of fighting going up to nearly 90 killed with hundreds injured. Because of the military's focus on Swat and South Waziristan, the fighting and consequent humanitarian disaster in Kurram Agency seem eclipsed. But the truth is that a minimum of 3,000 people have been killed in the sectarian clashes there that have been going on intermittently since 2007. Geographically, Kurram Agency is vulnerable to outside influences because it juts into Afghanistan. It also borders North Waziristan, a Taliban bastion. The surreptitious entry of the Taliban from Dir and Swat has exacerbated the sectarian conflict to the disadvantage of the Shia community. 

The true sufferers of the conflict are the people, thousands of whom have been forced out of their ancestral homes because they belong to the wrong tribe. The militants control all highways, including the key Thall-Parachinar road. This has served to block the supply of food and medicines. As Medecins Sans Frontieres said recently, it is finding it extremely difficult to provide relief to the sick because medical supplies are getting increasingly scarce, and even hospitals have been attacked. Electricity sometimes remains out for months. This has forced many Bangash tribesmen to move into Afghanistan. The local elders have complained to the government that they were unable to play their role in effecting peace because outside presence has sidelined them. Recently, an all-party conference in Parachinar appealed to the government to launch an operation to clear Kurram Agency of the Taliban. 

It is a measure of the government's ineffective role in the Kurram Agency killings that Isaf officials from Afghanistan have tried to bring the warring factions together and end fighting. One can understand the government's reluctance to open another front at a time when Swat cannot be said to have been fully cleared of the Taliban and the operation in South Waziristan has just begun. But given the people's misery, the government has no choice but to make its presence felt meaningfully and ensure peace. The first job is to open roads, especially the Thall-Parachinar route, rush food and medical supplies to the people and restore electricity fully. The government should also look into the claim recently by elders from six tribes that there was foreign interference in the area, and that some local tribesmen had been recruited by a foreign power to perpetuate trouble in the agency.
SOURCE: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/kurram-agency-violence-069




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