Thursday, September 17, 2009

Govt confident of dealing with Kurram situation

 Govt confident of dealing with Kurram situation
Thursday, September 17, 2009
By By our correspondent
ISLAMABAD: The government is confident of dealing with the grim situation in the Kurram Agency, caused by militants mostly from Afghanistan, within the next 3-4 weeks, which has held around 0.5 million people virtually hostage for nearly three years.

As a prelude to decisively deal with the security and humanitarian challenge, the government has taken some measures that include the appointment of a new political agent, Basir Khan Wazir, and an agreement with a private airline to launch a flight between Parachinar and other parts of the country.

"Yes, there is no doubt that the people of Upper Kurram, particularly Parachinar and its adjoining areas, have suffered a lot," conceded Interior Minister Rehman Malik, when asked for comments on the matter and the government's inability to address the issue so far.

He said it was time to defuse the alarming situation in Upper Kurram, for which the government was currently devising a line of action. The minister said an agreement with a private airline had been signed for a period of six months, as PIA planes could not be operated because of the narrow airstrip at Parachinar.

Similarly, he pointed out that the government was also starting a helicopter service to transport the people to and from Parachinar and adjoining localities. Rehman Malik added a Jirga of the Turi and Bangash tribes would also be convened shortly, as the two sides were being persuaded to end confrontation and they were also willing for the return of lasting peace to the area.

He noted that militants had also exploited the situation and were the main hurdle in the free movement of the people, adding that the law-enforcement agencies personnel also faced attacks from terrorists, who did not allow anyone the use of Parachinar-Peshawar Road.

In this connection, he referred to the last year's attack on a convoy of six or seven trucks transporting food and other essential items to Upper Kurram. "Our first priority is to make the main road safe for the common man," he noted.

A legislator from Parachinar, Sajid Hussain Turi, said those who move out of the area had to take a route of Peshawar via Afghanistan and several of them had fallen prey to the Taliban there with their throats slit.

In three days, five people were brutally killed in Afghanistan while trying to re-enter Pakistan. Two brothers lost their lives three days back, whereas three Turi tribesmen were massacred when they were heading for Parachinar from the Afghan border, he noted.

Turi said foreign hand was involved in the gory acts of violence in the agency. He denied a perception that sectarian strife had gripped the local population. He added that security forces should be deployed adequately at the Pak-Afghan border to bar the militants from the other side.

Ali Hussain, who is an Islamabad-based journalist, hailing from Parachinar, told this correspondent that in the last seven days, 10 Turi tribesman had lost their lives in Afghanistan. He said two brothers were killed in the neighbouring country on Tuesday and their mother also expired on hearing the tragic news while their sister was hospitalised after she fell unconscious.

Ali Hussain, who remains in touch with his parents and relatives, last time visited his home in Parachinar a year ago via Afghanistan, going from Torkham to Jalalabad, then to Kabul, Logar, Gardez and to Paktia before reaching the Kurram Agency.

He said that he wanted to celebrate Eidul Fitr with his family but after hearing the tragic news, he would not make an attempt this time to reach his village Borki, situated on the Pak-Afghan border via Afghanistan.

After the closure of the Peshawar-Parachinar Road some three years back, the inhabitants of the agency have been facing great hardships due to shortage of food items and medicines.

MNA Munir Orakzai, who has been involved in peace efforts, when contacted, sounded optimistic about the normalisation of the situation in Upper Kurram shortly. He said the recent appointment of Basir Khan as political agent of the Kurram Agency would greatly help achieve the objective.



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