Monday, November 16, 2009

Thall-Parachinar road opens after year-long closure

Thall-Parachinar road opens after year-long closure
By Zulfiqar Ali
Monday, 16 Nov, 2009
Kurram MNA Munir Orakzai in a meeting with the PM on October 3, 2009. Mr Orakzai said that convoys would patrol the road twice a week till Eidul Azha when the highway would be opened for regular traffic. – Photo by APP.

PESHAWAR: The Thall-Parachinar road which has remained closed for a year because of security problems has been reopened.

Officials said that a convoy escorted by paramilitary forces backed by helicopters reached Peshawar from Kurram Agency on Thursday and another convoy of trucks and passenger vehicles reached Parachinar from Peshawar on Sunday, indicating resumption of traffic.

Several checkpoints have been set up along the highway.

The convoy from Peshawar consisted of 30 goods trucks and 15 vehicles. Fata Additional Chief Secretary Habibullah Khan told Dawn that the decision to reopen the road was taken after extensive negotiations with tribal elders in Upper and Lower Kurram.

He said that nobody had closed the highway but people did not use it because of security concerns.’ Now paramilitary forces have secured the route and tribesmen have extended full cooperation. The purpose of sending convoys was to restore confidence among people,’ he said.

Because of the closure of the road, people of Kurram valley were forced to use the Kabul and Jalalabad routes to come to Peshawar.

Several passengers were killed and kidnapped while travelling through Afghanistan and the Afghan government made special arrangements for travellers. People stopped using the road after militants attacked a convoy near Sadda in Lower Kurram in November last year. Over a dozen drivers were killed and several trucks were destroyed in the attack.

Clashes in the region have left over 3,000 people dead and displaced hundreds of families over the past two years. Trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian republics has also been affected.

Kurram MNA Munir Orakzai said convoys would patrol the road twice a week till Eidul Azha when the highway would be opened for regular traffic.

‘There is a verbal understanding between rival groups to keep the road open,’ he said. Talks would be held after Eid to ensure lasting peace in the region.

He said the road from Thall to Kohat had also been secured.

Mr Habibullah said the Peshawar Flying Club was operating a three-seat light aircraft to and from Parachinar and a proposal was under consideration to start a helicopter service for Upper Kurram.


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