Monday, February 28, 2011

Militants attack post with rockets in Darra

Monday, February 28, 2011

KOHAT: Militants fired two rockets at a security forces' post in the mountains of Bostikhel in Darra Adamkhel on Sunday. Sources said that the rockets were fired from an unknown direction but no human or material losses were caused. 

In retaliation, security forces also fired with heavy artillery at the hideouts of militants, but there was no word about any losses suffered by them. Our correspondent adds from Parachinar: A man was killed and another sustained injuries in a roadside blast in Taida village in Kurram Agency on Sunday, tribal sources said. 

The sources said the family of Wahab Ali, a member of the Hazara community in Parachinar, was on way from Taida village to Parachinar, the agency headquarters of Kurram Agency, when their vehicle hit an explosive device planted by militants on the roadside. Two persons identified as Hamid Hussain and Sadiq Ali sustained injuries in the explosion. They were rushed to the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Parachinar where Hamid Hussain succumbed to injuries.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

War and Peace

Pakistan Observer

War and Peace

Yahya Ahmad
Sunday, February 27, 2011, Rabbi-ul-Awwal 23, 1432
If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." George Bernard Shaw. Pakistani authorities for the last ten years have been fighting pitched battles against terrorist and militant outfits in North-West Pakistan. At least 3300 security forces personnel have laid down their lives since 2003. The terrorists have been utilizing guerilla tactics of inflicting losses, while trying to avoid a prolonged and direct confrontation. It is expected that, The Sate of Pakistan should now be well aware of the effectiveness of the peace accords that have taken place on numerous occasions, with these outfits. Judging from history, it is quite evident that these outfits have used these interim periods of peace, to recuperate and later strike whenever they have regained their capabilities. 

The examples are present in the peace accord of Swat and various truce agreements carried out in the Tribal Areas. The militants have always used these truce agreements to buy time, for preparing themselves for a stronger confrontation. The installation of parallel government and judicial system has been a norm for these militant groups. The summary judgments carried out by kangaroo courts, the harassment and killings of government supporters are how these elements exert their authority. With the success of military operations in the areas of Swat and South Waziristan, it is a verified assumption that peace, stability and prosperity cannot be reached unless the violent and subversive elements are not removed.

The breaking of sectarian violence in Upper and Lower Kurram regions in November 2007, engulfed Parachinar and the Peshawar-Parachinar road has been closed since then. According to some estimates, 2,000 people have died and more have fled their homes after clashes between the rival tribes, intensified. The Taliban have been widely known and condemned for inflaming and taking part in this violence. Recently, a truce has been reached among the warring tribes, which has been welcomed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It is understandable that the peace in the area after three-four years of fighting is an encouraging step, especially for the local people. But the question is; can these banned outfits such as TTP be trusted for holding on to such a truce. The tacit approval which has been given by the state, points to the disturbing fact that there are still some vocal voices present in the policy circles, who still consider that these elements can be negotiated with. It should be pointed to them, that the TTP has not only been the part but the instigator of violence in the area. 

While peace is being restored in one part of the Tribal Area, the events, have taken a turn in Mohmand Agency. The operation against militant outfits in Mohmand Agency seems to be intensifying. According to the UN, up to 22000 people have already fled the area, while this number could rise to an estimated 90,000, by the end of February. This again is turning into an exodus and a humanitarian crisis for the country. A necessary evil, if terrorism is to be defeated in those areas. But it has to be followed up with a rehabilitation effort on war footings, a scale somewhat similar to the rehabilitation that, has taken place after Swat operation. It is imperative, that even if a truce agreement is reached, the terms should not be undermining the government's role in the area. The state apparatus should also keep a proper check on these groups and monitor their activities, while the agreement is in place. The government on the other hand, should use this time to establish their writ in the area.

The state should make effective strategies for a public outreach and also concentrate on the developmental projects in the area. Previously, these kinds of agreements have gone up in smoke because, these outfits gained unchecked strength and influence in the area and resultantly they shifted their goal posts, demanding more each time. They have also used these time periods, to exert their authority and establish a parallel government in the areas, based on their ideological perceptions. Providing the locals, with security for their lives and property, will boost their confidence. Taking the locals into confidence by the state is crucial for the implementation such agreements, in the spirit. The locals are the ones directly affected by the conflict and with the knowledge that the state has not left them on the mercy of these outfits, they will put their firm support behind the government.




Saturday, February 26, 2011

No end to attacks in Kurram

From The Newspaper Today

KOHAT, Feb 25: The local military fort has become a temporary shelter for people of Tora Ghundi and Tora Warai parts of Hangu, which have been turned into a battleground due to regular skirmishes between the troops and guerilla militants since 2006.

The militants had been attacking the region for several years now to regain control of the strategic region and expel the armed forces from Orakzai Agency and Kurram Agency, a local elder Inayatullah told Dawn on Thursday.

A couple of days ago five tribal children were killed and eleven others seriously injured when one of the six missiles fired at a security checkpost by militants hit a house in Tora Ghundi area.

According to the army publicity wing, militants fired seven rockets from the nearby mountains at a security checkpost in Tora Warai on Thursday. It said that the troops retaliated with artillery fire.

Officials said that the rockets were fired from an unknown side and they could not judge whether they had been launched from the mountains of Kurram Agency or Orakzai Agency. They said that the militants had increased attacks at the checkposts in the area. — Correspondent



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Troops kill 10 terrorists in Kurram Agency

Daily Times


Troops kill 10 terrorists in Kurram Agency


Thursday, February 24, 2011


PESHAWAR: At least ten terrorists were killed and several others were wounded on Wednesday as security forces targeted terrorists' hideouts in parts of the Kurram Agency, a security official said. The security forces backed by gunship helicopters launched operation in two areas of Kurram Agency. Security sources pounded suspected terrorist hideouts. At least ten terrorists were killed and several were reportedly wounded and two terrorist hideouts and a vehicle were destroyed in the operation. app



Kurram: sacrificed at the global jihad altar —Dr Mohammad Taqi

Thursday, February 24, 2011

COMMENT: Kurram: sacrificed at the global jihad altar —Dr Mohammad Taqi

While the Pakistani media went hoarse over Raymond Davis, it conveniently ignored several other foreign thugs of the tallest order, operating with impunity inside Pakistan

As the world at large focused on events in the Arab world and Pakistanis remained preoccupied with CIA contractor Raymond Davis, a jirga composed ostensibly of tribal elders from Kurram Agency announced on February 3, 2011 a 'peace' accord between Shias and Sunnis in Parachinar, the headquarters of the Kurram Agency.

However, a closer look at the players involved in brokering the deal shows that what appears, prima facie, as a welcome solution to years of deadly impasse, is nothing but the Pakistani establishment's attempt to roll out its own version of the end game in Afghanistan. Never mind the jihadist history of reneging on deals, but without actually addressing the grievances of the Sunnis displaced from Parachinar or the Shias dislodged from Sadda, Jalamai and Chardewal — let alone restitution for the thousands killed and maimed on both sides — the deal is bound to end in failure. A senior Pashtun leader, Abdul Lateef Afridi, speaking to this writer, stated: "While the opening of roads is a welcome sign, unless the establishment changes its policy towards Afghanistan, the Kurram deal spells more trouble for the agreement under the auspices of the Pakistani Pashtun elders may be the only route forward but, unfortunately, none of them were consulted."

The Kurram Agency's geo-strategic importance, with its proximity to the Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces of Afghanistan on one hand and North Waziristan (NW) and Orakzai Agencies on the other, is well established. A neutral Kurram is imperative for the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) to stymie the influx of jihadists from this region into Afghanistan. Conversely, any sustained Taliban intervention into Afghanistan from the Pakistani side requires open access through upper Kurram. The contiguity of lower and central Kurram to NW and Orakzai can allow jihadists easy transit into Afghanistan. The northeast reaches of upper Kurram, adjoining the Tirah valley and the Tora Bora complex in the Spin Ghar mountain make for a retreat and retraction route for the jihadists — a conduit used to the fullest benefit by al Qaeda in 2001.

Pakistan has resisted US pressure to take action against the jihadists, especially of the Haqqani network, holed up in NW. However, with the July 2011 date for the start of the US drawdown from Afghanistan looming, the US demand has become urgent. The establishment remains convinced, however, that the US will leave Afghanistan sooner rather than later and therefore hedges its bets for the Kabul throne through its jihadist assets like the Haqqani network. The de facto leader of the network, Sirajuddin, has even been tipped as Pakistan's choice for Mullah Omar's eventual replacement. These assets, therefore, had to be moved to safe havens that could also double as bridgeheads, and Kurram fits that bill.

However, the Turi and Bangash tribes of Kurram refused to play ball with the agencies and their jihadist proxies, with whom they have significant religious doctrinal differences. An armed resistance by the Kurram tribes effectively denied the al Qaeda-Taliban a thoroughfare into Afghanistan, something that directly drew the wrath of Rawalpindi. The deep state then worked overtime to manufacture a sectarian crisis in Kurram in April 2007.

When attempts to gain a foothold in Parachinar failed, the establishment allowed a siege of upper Kurram by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their al Qaeda overlords, blockading the Tal-Parachinar road. A humanitarian crisis in upper Kurram was averted only through the efforts of several Pashtun elders, who helped secure the long and arduous Parachinar-Khost-Gardez-Kabul-Peshawar route as an alternative. Cessna flights to Parachinar operated by the Peshawar Flying Club, though very expensive, were an added relief line. The reprieve thus gained by the Turis and Bangash of upper Kurram reinforced their resolve to fight on and continue denying sanctuary and conduit to the jihadists.

Watching the keystone of its plan for post-US Afghanistan unravelled by the ragtag Kurramis, the establishment decided, in the words of one Colonel Sajjad, to "teach the Turis a lesson". In September 2010, Colonel Tausif Akhtar of the Pakistani security forces announced closure of five border entry points to "clamp down on sectarian violence". The Kurramis were thus squished between the hammer and anvil of a state-sponsored double embargo. The state also interrupted the small aircraft sorties from Peshawar. The isolation of upper Kurram was now complete. Having pushed them against the wall, the establishment felt that the Kurramis might be amenable to a settlement.

While the Pakistani media went hoarse over Raymond Davis, it conveniently ignored several other foreign thugs of the tallest order, operating with impunity inside Pakistan. The media has portrayed a TTP commander, Fazl-e-Saeed of Uchat village (lower Kurram), as the guarantor of the Kurram deal. The fact, however, is that the Pakistani establishment imposed Khalil Haqqani (an uncle of Sirajuddin Haqqani) as an arbiter, as early as October 2010 (as noted then in this column). Khalil Haqqani was the most influential jihadist involved in getting the February 3 deal off the ground.

The irony is that while Pakistani intelligence services and that drama queen of a foreign minister were wailing about a CIA man running amok in Lahore, Khalil Haqqani was conducting a jirga a stone's throw away from Islamabad in Bhara Kahu, where he reportedly maintains a business concern. These meetings were attended by some six Shia Kurramis, including Haji Aun Ali, Laiq Hussain, Captain Yousaf, Councillor Iqbal Hussain and MNA Sajid Turi. MNA Munir Orakzai and Senator Rashid Ahmed were among the eight Sunnis representing lower and central Kurram. Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, reportedly, also attended the meetings with Khalil Haqqani — a man declared a 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist' by the US earlier this month.

The Haqqani network has freely used the Pir Qayyum, Sateen and Shasho camp (an old hub of Rasul Sayyaf in the 1980s) areas of lower Kurram but really needed open access to its bases in Tari Mangal, Mata Sangar, Makhrani, Wacha Darra and Spina Shaga in upper Kurram to launch attacks into Afghanistan in the upcoming summer fighting. By coercing the Kurramis into accepting the writ of the Haqqani network, the Pakistani establishment has cast its lot with the jihadists.

It remains to be seen if this strategy to use upper Kurram against the US will work. But for now the deep state has sacrificed Kurram at the altar of global jihad.

The writer can be reached at



Tree plantation campaign starts in Kurram Agency

Pakistan Observer

Wednesday, February 23, 2011, Rabbi-ul-Awwal 19, 1432

Tree plantation campaign starts in Kurram Agency

Parachinar—The spring tree plantation campaign 2011 has been started in Kurram Agency and samplings of different species were dispatched to farmers, educational organizations and other stakeholders to make the agency lush green. Syed Musadique Shah, Political Agent Khurram Agency inaugurated the plantation campaign by planting a sampling of Deodar at his office's premises on Tuesday.

Speaking on the occasion, the agency's top administrator said forestry resources are playing key role in socio-economic development of people and issue of desertification, climatic change and soil erosion could be addressed by planting maximum samplings. Local communities are being encouraged through their respective village/tribes developmental committees (VDCs) to help carry out most of the planting, while individual farmers will be facilitated on their farms and fields.

He urged tribesmen to sow maximum samplings of different species in their lands/farms to make Kurram Agency lush green. The Political Agent directed the Forest Department to sow maximum plantation at Toothgar Dam to ward off the affects of soil erosion and will protect land from soil. DFO Nisar Muhammad and SDFO Hazrat Mir said that Kurram Agency has been divided in Central, Lower and Upper Kurram Agency and fit planting stocks have been sent to the stakeholders for plantation.

The saplings of different species would be planted with the assistance of education institutions, armed forces, NGOs and civil society to boost forest resources in Kurram Agency. The saplings are being sent to government departments, farmers and NGOs to achieve the target also, they added. They urged stakeholders to contact with Forest Department for provision of samplings.

The Comsats Institute of Information and Technology (CIIT) launched an extensive drive for spring tree plantation here Tuesday. Rector CIIT Dr. S.M. Junaid Zaidi inaugurated the campaign by planting a sapling. Addressing to the gathering he said trees provided pollution free environment so it was necessary to ensure maximum growth of trees for better environment. The director CIIT Dr. Sherzada said 2500 trees would be planted during the campaign. He said funds of Rs 472 million had approved for construction of new building of the campus over the area of 300 kanals. Later students of CIIT Attock planted trees in different areas of the campus.—APP



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Minors, women among 6 killed in rocket attack


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

HANGU: Six people including three minors and two women were killed and 10 others sustained injuries Tuesday when suspected militants fired rockets from central tehsil of Kurram Agency at the troops' checkpoint in Torghundai village in Hangu district, local sources said.

The sources said the militants fired six rockets at the security forces checkpoint. One rocket hit the checkpoint of the forces set up inside the Government Primary School, while others struck houses of Hameed Gul and Sakhi Marjan in Torghundai village.

Six houses were damaged in the attack while three kids including eight-year old Fayyaz, Adnan aged 3, and Umar, 6, sons of one Abidur Rehman were killed on the spot. Two women — Asma wife of Sharif and Romana Bibi daughter of Munir Gul — were also killed in the incident, the sources added. 

The sources said another villager, Ilyas, was also killed in the incident. The wounded included Hameed Gul, Irfan, Abidur Rehman, Zubair, Noor Jahan, Nazia Bibi, Noreena Bibi and security forces personnel Hafiz Sajid.

There were unconfirmed reports that security forces retaliated by targeting the hideouts of militants in central tehsil of Kurram Agency with heavy artillery for more than an hour. Sources said eight militants were killed in the shelling and two of their hideouts destroyed. However, the claim could not be verified from independent sources




Monday, February 21, 2011

Alliances and truce

Pakistan Observer

Alliances and truce

Monday, February 21, 2011, Rabbi-ul-Awwal 17, 1432

Fahd F Khan

Pakistan is passing through the decisive moments of its history. It is a time period where every aspect of social parameters seems to be intermingled into new doctrines and emerging paradigms. Is Pakistan the theater of new Great Game, which history has relentlessly repeated in concentric circles right from Penopolenesian wars.

Francis Fukoyma Magnus' "End of History" is very much unlike the thesis of Samuel Huntington neither the cultural differentials, nor the ideological one as usually perceived by everyone. These two theses of historical intent have a delimiting effect on the present Muslim populace all over the globe. Cashing upon these fault lines the Taliban are desperately ensuing alliances with anyone who can resist them in whatever capacity. Present truce cum alliance in the Kurram Agency with the local Shiites is a case in point. This is not mere idealistic vs realistic contest; it is much beyond the defined Rubicon. War in Afghanistan is entering the decisive phase, although no one can identify the exact phase due to extensive and perennial fog of war. No war in the history is fought under such dense conditions as that of the neo Afghan war.

Turn after turn this war is entering into a new arena of triumph, tragedy and trajectory. The latest development is even more horrific than anything known and palpated. Taliban in Afghanistan are gaining ground, even holding it for a while. The Afghan Taliban have proved to be an entity to reckon with in any serious conflict resolution mechanics.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan on the tactics of destructive chaos and mayhem is now probably trying to engage the Afghan Taliban. It might yearn a bad experience, but nevertheless, worth trying. The Afghan Taliban are also not an ambitionless people; they probably think in trans-frontier terms. After gaining foothold in all the border areas between Afghanistan and

Pakistan, they are trying to further consolidate their gains. The Pakistani territory to them is a poaching zone. The Afghan Taliban have recently reached an agreement with the Shiite population of Kurram Agency. The agreement is more of a truce with granting sovereign grantees to each after for operating in the area with impunity, if this is implemented as perceived than probably it can be called as another nail in the coffin of state. State loosing territory one after the other is an indicator that the ideological and physical frontiers of the state are under immense pressure. In Kurram the Shiite clans were resisting the ever increasing influence of the Taliban, who even tried to close their historical route from Kurram to Jalalabad and Kabul on the one side and towards other areas with far reaching outreach.

The Shiite Pathans are very brave, they resisted the onslaught in a dignified manner but probably they lost patience with the local administration. Whatever skeleton they had, local administration should have helped these Shiite lashkarwalas by giving them moral and material support. The policy agenda of political administration should have been to maintain a popped up status of Shiite Muslim. This could have proved to be a factor in homogenizing all segments of tribal society in resisting these extremists. Kurram is an important place in this emerging mechanics of pent up strategies of terrorism and counter terrorism. This war is the war of gaining time and geography. Time in this case is not an immediate issue whereas geography is. There were news for the last two months that Siraj Haqqani's younger son was busy negotiating with lashkars and those segments of Kurram who were not giving a comfortable nudge to the Taliban. Kurram Agency has a strategic location. It is just across Jalalabad and also the shortest route to Kabul.

The Lashkars and local Shiites of Kurram agency were the real stumbling block for the Taliban. Army is already busy in fighting the Taliban in different tribal agencies; the government should have supported the locals of the area who had been resisting the obscurantist. The recent agreement and truce between Taliban and locals of the area is analogous to the fall of Kurram. One after the other if this trend follows, then we will be left with nothing except the remorse and dejection over losing both the endowments, the time and territory.



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kurram peace deal

Kurram peace deal

Sunday 20th February 2011 | Rabi-ul-Awwal 16, 1432


AS new details emerge about the behind-the-scenes brokering that have nudged the Kurram Agency peace deal along in recent weeks, the role of the Haqqani network has come to the fore. Because of the historical sectarian tensions in the agency, much of the fighting in recent years has been characterised as `sectarian` and `local` in nature. In truth, however, the arrival of militants in the area in recent years began a new fight for control of Kurram Agency, much like traditional power structures in other parts of the tribal areas were challenged and overrun by militants seeking to establish their own writ. Having failed to wrest control of key areas in the agency, the militants turned to negotiations, with the ever-present Haqqani network helping broker a deal.

What the Haqqani network stands to gain from such a role can only be speculated about. Perhaps arrangements on the Pakistani side of the border could be linked to new developments on the Afghan side, where the national government has been keen to engage the militants/insurgents in dialogue. Or perhaps anything which improves the standing and influence of the Haqqanis in Pakistan`s tribal areas is perceived as good by certain quarters here responsible for trying to bring Fata under state control. Two things ought to be kept in mind, however. First, in dealing with Fata the state will sometimes have no good choices and may be forced to hold its nose and work with whoever can help bring some normality to the area. That is the unfortunate reality in an area which has been keep at an arm`s length from the rest of Pakistan since the country`s creation. Two, while understanding the tactical necessity highlighted above, there is a larger need to keep in mind what makes for good strategy. Long term, anything that helps any militia further its influence in Fata cannot be good for the Pakistani state. Thirty years of tweaking and `arrangements` in Fata have led to the gravest internal security threat this country has ever faced. The security establishment here must understand that there are no `friends` of Pakistan among militants.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kurram deal — Haqqanis’ Afghan insurance policy

Kurram deal — Haqqanis' Afghan insurance policy

From the Newspaper 

Saturday 19th February 2011 | Rabi-ul-Awwal 15, 1432

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: No doubt, the Kurram peace deal, which has eased tension in the valley and ended the four-year blockade of the main Thall-Parachinar road and caused jubilation among tribesmen, but it is yet to be seen how long the pact holds ground and helps to maintain normalcy in the region.

It is an open secret that the Haqqani group, one of the outfits on the most wanted list of the US government, brokered the deal between sectarian factions. Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani's younger brothers – Ibrahim and Khalil – played a key role in brokering the agreement.

While Haqqani's efforts for restoration of peace in this strategically important part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have amazed local population, it has worried the Afghan government.

When Haqqani group's contacts with the dominant Turi tribe in Kurram Agency were reported in the national and international media, senior officials of the Afghan government contacted elders and expressed concerns over the possibility of 'some concessions' being given to the group for strategic purposes in return for lifting the blockade of the area.

Before the deal was announced, the Afghan authorities invited local elders for talks which were held in Afghanistan's Paktia province. A senior Afghan official conveyed the concerns about the Haqqani group being provided some space in Kurram. "We dismissed Afghan government's apprehensions," said a source privy to the meeting. The Afghan official was told that the Haqqani group neither demanded any facilities nor the Turis were willing to give their territory to be used for launching activities across the border.

Background interviews and information gathered from various sources reveal that the Haqqani network is the main guarantor of the deal. The security establishment was on board and facilitated the process. In fact the six-point peace agreement was signed in Murree in October 2008, but its implementation was withheld for some unknown reasons.

Two parliamentarians from Kurram deposited Rs40 million with the Haqqanis as surety, according to the sources. Under the deal, the government also pledged a compensation package to win over the local people.

The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), one of the major actors in the three-year bloodshed, has accepted the deal, reportedly half-heartedly.

The sources said the TTP was not in favour of the agreement, but Commander Fazal Saeed, in-charge of the banned group, finally bowed to pressure and announced support for the deal at a press conference.

According to one source, Commander Fazal, who carries a head money of Rs5 million, was given a stern warning – "Either you are with us or with the other side (TTP)."

Kurram has been returning to normality since the announcement of the agreement. People have started travelling on the Thall-Parachinar Road without security convoys. Members of the tribal jirga headed by former federal minister Waris Khan Afridi are shuttling between Parachinar and Sadda discussing modalities for the complete implementation of the deal. But long-term prospects of the deal are still unclear. The return of the internally displaced families, their rehabilitation and compensation to be paid to them are major issues which require lots of patience and resources.

Haqqanis' expectations

What can be the motives of the Haqqani group in reaching the peace deal? Sources said that during negotiations the Haqqani brothers never demanded any concession in return for opening the main road.

"Sure, Haqqanis have admitted that situation in Kurram had affected their cause in Afghanistan, but never sought route or passage through Upper Kurram," said one source involved in the talks.

The Haqqani group started mediation between the elders of Turi and Bangash tribes in early 2009 when militants lost Bagzai, their main stronghold in Lower Kurram. Negotiations, however, remained inconclusive.

Residents of Upper and Lower Kurram were given some concessions, including a partial opening of the main highway and resumption of chartered flights between Peshawar and Parachinar.

But at the same time, the border with Afghanistan in Upper and Lower Kurram was sealed and supply of food items, fuel and other essential goods was stopped. Convoys were attacked on the Thall-Parachinar Road.

The sources said that clashes in Shalozan Tungi area near the Afghan border in September 2010 was the turning point.

"Shalozan was their (militants) last hope, which they thought could put them into a bargaining position," they said, "but they failed again," adding that when all options of subduing the local population failed the strategy was changed.

An elder who is familiar with recent arrangements said that the Haqqani network undertook initiatives for restoration of peace in Kurram Agency against the backdrop of growing understanding between President Hamid Karzai and those who had influence over Pakistan's Afghan policy.

Now, an option for securing stakes for the Haqqani network in Afghanistan's future political settlement is being reviewed at the highest level. The option is to give the group some share in power in Afghanistan's southern provinces, which will end violence in the volatile Kurram Agency.

About the Haqqani network's offers, the elder said that even its affiliates would help the government in maintaining peace in Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan districts, which are facing the worst type of sectarian violence.

To that end, the Haqqani network will use its influence over rouge sectarian elements, which are part of their operations, to end attacking innocent civilians. "If the formula works in Kurram then it can be replicated in other troubled areas," he remarked.




Poetic sessions welcoming peace in Kurram conclude

Saturday, February 19, 2011
PARACHINAR: The three-day poetry recital sessions (mushairas) held in an open venue in the lap of the snow-capped Spinghar mountain range to celebrate return of peace in Kurram Agency has concluded.
At the mushaira, local poets recited poems to highlight the critical situation that prevailed in the area and hailed efforts for restoration of peace and reopening of the main Parachinar-Thall road.

The poetry recital sessions were organised by the literary society, Spinghar Adabi Tolana, to welcome the recent peace agreement reached between the Shia and Sunni communities and re-opening of the roads in Kurram Agency after a closure for four years. The organisers of the event including Yousaf Khan, Sher Alam Noori and Aziz Khamosh representing a group of literati in the area, said more such events would be arranged to promote peace and harmony in Kurram Agency.

Addressing the concluding session of the mushaira, Kurram Agency's Political Agent Syed Musadiq Shah and Assistant Political Agent Muhammad Fakharuddin said not only the poets but also every individual must play a role for peace in Fata.

They urged the tribal elders from both Sunni and Shia communities to use their influence to jointly work for the cause of peace in the interest of the residents who suffered a lot for the last few years due to violence.

The Political Agent said the roads had been re-opened in Kurram Agency after the peace agreement and now the government was striving hard to further consolidate the hard won peace. He added in this connection peace talks were regularly held with the local elders from both the communities to sort out further issues like repatriation of the displaced persons.

The mushaira was attended by a large number of poets. They included Khayal Shah Khayal, Arif Jan, Noor Ghulam Noori, Sultan Ali Sahar, Jalal Hussain Bangash, Mehdi Karobi, Yousaf Maranj and Dilfagar Turi.

The local elders including Prof Jamil Kazmi, senior journalist Ali Afzal Afzal and Syed Zahid Ali Shah paid glowing tributes to the poets for promoting peace in the area. Meanwhile, talking to reporters the poets urged the US to stop killing innocent people in Pakistan. "America is using all its cards to save the life of Raymond Davis, who is a killer of two innocent Pakistanis. But there is no sympathy for those killed in the name of war on terror in the tribal areas," one of the poets said.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Haqqani-brokered peace in Kurram agency?

A Haqqani-brokered peace in Kurram agency?

By Daud Khattak, February 17, 2011

It would seem that Machiavellian politics have finally won out in the Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram; last week, leaders from Kurram's Shi'a Muslim community (located mostly in Upper Kurram) finally came to an agreement with their Sunni Muslim rivals (located mostly in Lower and Central Kurram) - through the intervention of the powerful insurgent network led by famed mujahideen Jalaluddin Haqqani - to put an end to the four-year-old sectarian war that has claimed roughly 3,000 lives according to various media reports, with thousands more displaced and nearly 50 villages burned to the ground as a result of the fighting.

Deadly sectarian clashes have been taking place in Kurram since at least 1987; however, the situation worsened following the emergence of different groups of Taliban under the leadership of Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Toofan in the neighboring Waziristan and Orakzai agencies and other tribal districts after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001. Over the years, the Shi'a of Kurram have accused various Taliban groups and the Pakistani security establishment of lending support to their Sunni enemies, while the Sunnis accuse their rivals of drawing financial and material support from Iran, the country that once narrowly avoided a full-fledged war with Afghanistan during Taliban rule.

Nine mini-wars have taken place in the agency since 2001, with the latest, started in November 2007, only ending with last week's truce. During that period, the Shi'a populated areas remained cut off from rest of Pakistan, as the road leading from Peshawar to Parachinar, the main town in Upper Kurram, passes through Sunni-populated settled districts which prevented Shi'a access to the road. Thus communication with and travel to Peshawar in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province was only available by a road that runs through the Afghan cities of Khost, Gardez, Kabul and Jalalabad.

This circuitous route meant a roughly 18-hour journey to Peshawar from Parachinar. Besides being expensive, such a trip requires an enormous risk given the instability in these areas of south-eastern Afghanistan. By contrast, a normal journey from Parachinar to Peshawar on Pakistan's roads takes an average four hours.

Among other factors, the truce, achieved after four months of extensive negotiations between representatives of the two sects, elected legislators from the area, and key elders from other tribes, can be attributed to the direct involvement of Haqqani network, based in the Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal agency.

Though the Shi'a representative and elected member of the Pakistan National Assembly from Kurram, Sajid Hussain Turi, rejected the involvement of the Haqqani network or any other Taliban group in negotiating the truce, some elders privy to the talks indicated to the author that Fazal Haidar Haqqani, a grandson of the ailing Jalaluddin, was the key figure pressuring leaders of the two sects to sign the peace accord. One elder told the author that Fazal Haidar once warned the negotiating parties that a deal could not be achieved without Haqqani support, and local and international media have also mentioned the involvement of two other Haqqani family members, Ibrahim and Khalil Haqqani, in the negotiations.

The Haqqani pressure seems to have guaranteed the peace deal's acceptance by all parties in the conflict. Interestingly, the first congratulatory note on the peace agreement came from the Kurram Taliban, known before for their hatred of Shi'a both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Fazal Saeed, head of the Taliban in Kurram and a man worth 5 million Pakistani Rupee in reward money, told a news conference that violators of the accord would be punished under the Sharia Laws.

It is unlikely that the Taliban and Haqqani network suddenly believe in Sunni-Shi'a peace, or wish to leave the Shi'a alone. Rather, the accord seems to be more of a marriage of convenience than the beginning of a true 'Love Story' between the rival sects with the prevailing situation in the tribal belt and strategic location of Kurram Agency both explaining the sudden militant Sunni interest in a cessation of sectarian conflict.

Besides having a long, triangle-shaped border with Afghanistan in the its north, west and south, Kurram is also adjoins the Khyber and Orakzai tribal districts in the north and the settled district of Hangu and North Waziristan tribal agency in the south.

The increasing number of drone attacks and U.S. pressure on the Pakistani government to launch an operation in North Waziristan has further increased the strategic importance of Kurram Agency, particularly for the Taliban and Haqqani network. Kurram could be used as a junction to go forth and back into Khyber, Orakzai and Waziristan agencies on one hand, and Afghanistan and the settled districts of Pakistan on the other. However, this back-and-forth transit depends on peace with and readiness on part of the Shi'a to allow the Taliban to cross their areas.

This strategic positioning meant the Haqqanis needed to win the goodwill of the local Shi'a in order to guarantee safe passage through their areas.

When the Taliban in Central Kurram closed the major road through the region over the past four years, the Shi'a population suffered from shortages of  food and medicine (although arms supplies continued to reach the area), and their schools and hospitals were closed. The Haqqani pressure during the peace negotiations has helped re-open the road, a move intended to further expand their influence and improve their relationship with the Shi'a. The Haqqanis also intervened last July to win the release of six Shi'a kidnapped by their Sunni rivals. According to local journalists who spoke to the author, the Shi'a finally agreed, though not publicly, that they would let Taliban pass through their areas (if not allowing them to stay) in case the Pakistani security forces launch an operation in North Waziristan.

Keeping the past mistreatment of Pakistani and Afghan Shi'a populations by the Taliban and affiliates, the Haqqani network and the Shi'a of Kurram will never be friends; but through lengthy negotiation and careful diplomacy, it seems that the Haqqanis, or their supporters, have secured enough future cooperation, or acquiescence, to ensure their continued ability to operate in Pakistan's tribal regions. 




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Amn mushaira held in Parachinar

PARACHINAR: To celebrate the reopening of the road after four consecutive years of tension in Kurram Agency and blockade of Thall-Parachinar Road, an 'Amn Mushaira' or a poetry recital session for peace was organised by Speenghar Adabi Jirga at Maikaykhel Tuesday.

Kurram Agency Political Agent Syed Musadiq Shah and APA of Upper Kurram Muhammad Fakhruddin presided over the session. Sitting on a snow covered open area the poets paid tributes to the elders for bringing about peace in the area and also expressed the full support to the administration through their poems.

Participants appreciated the step for peace and development of the area and sought more mushairas for decreasing tension and promoting peace. The elders of the area also attended the event and vowed to organise such events till the restoration of permanent peace in the area. Participants were entertained by Turi Dance and music programme at the end. Local press club also played a pivotal role in organising the event, which was appreciated by poets and officials in their speeches.




Monday, February 14, 2011

Over Rs1 billion being spent in Kurram Agency

Over Rs1 billion being spent in Kurram Agency

Published: February 14, 2011

Communications, agriculture, health and education receiving bulk of funding.

PESHAWAR: Scores of development projects and schemes worth more than Rs1 billion have been initiated in flood and militancy-hit Kurram Agency.

The government has set Rs1.37 billion for uplift in the "Valley of Chinars", out of the Rs15 billion approved for Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Annual Development Programme 2010-11.

The projects will focus on rebuilding educational institutes, hospitals, basic health units, roads and schemes related to forestry, livestock, agriculture and clean drinking water, official sources told APP on Sunday.

The development strategy includes improving existing infrastructure and building new roads and bridges. The government will also focus on improving existing education, health and drinking water facilities.

Official sources said the government is paying special attention to rebuilding schools and colleges damaged by militants and has launched several projects for their repair and reconstruction.

The buildings of Government College for Women and Government College for Boys in Lower Kurram and the Government Girls Degree College in Alizai will be upgraded to ensure provision of quality education to children living nearby, a government official said.

The primary schools will be upgraded to middle level and community schools will be made all over the agency, the official added.

The government wants to open up the remote and inaccessible areas of Kurram Agency to potential business ventures. For this they are planning on widening and blacktopping various roads connecting different areas of the agency to the major highways.

For provision of clean drinking water, the government has already completed several water supply schemes. Tube wells have also been set up.

The government will set up a farm centre in the agency to try and maximise the amount of land under cultivation. People will be encouraged to adapt modern agriculture practices enabling them to grow even off-season vegetables (thus increasing their earning potential), the official said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2011.




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Taliban in charge?


Taliban in charge? 

Published: February 13, 2011

We should not need a militant outfit to enforce peace agreements. PHOTO: AFP

Sometimes one is forced to wonder who is in control of this country. A few days after Shia and Sunni tribal elders from Kurram Agency reached a peace agreement in Islamabad, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief in the agency, Fazal Saeed, told a press conference (addressed from a secret location) that his organisation would ensure that the peace deal was respected and would punish violators if the government or the jirga failed to do so. Coming from an organisation that is banned and guilty of crimes of the most horrendous nature, the whole thing seems a little high-handed, to put it mildly — as if the TTP is presiding over a government which is subservient to it.

The situation should not be taken lightly. The authorities need to assert the writ of state. We should not need a militant outfit to enforce peace agreements or act in other ways to keep order. The situation also demonstrates that, many months after the task to wage war on them began, the TTP remains an active, confident force, able to make its voice heard and impress on people the notion that it is fully in command of swathes of territory and, as such, in charge of their lives, determining whether or not it agrees with certain peace deals and warning that it is willing to mete out punishments under 'Sharia', or rather its interpretation of it.

All this is farcical. We have lost control of our country to a band of thugs. The territories they hold need to be wrested back from them. The government needs to ensure that it is the force in charge of affairs rather than a redundant entity with no real ability to influence events in large tracts of the country. This would amount to chaos — and we seem to be descending towards it at a perilous pace.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2011.




Let peace take roots in Kurram

Let peace take roots in Kurram

EDITORIAL  (February 13, 2011) : Peace has finally returned to the strife-stricken Kurram Agency, tempting the beleaguered residents to celebrate the event. On Tuesday, as the erstwhile deadly foes were warmly received and garlanded in their rivals' camps, the citizenry poured unto streets all over the Agency and tasted sweets.

The crucial lifeline to the area, Thall-Parachinar road, has been reopened for traffic after nearly four years of forced closure by the militants. And, above all, the Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP), largely accused of fomenting sectarian trouble in the region by pitting Sunnis against Shias, has welcomed the new development; in fact, it has even sounded a warning that no one would be allowed to bear arms on the main road.

The credit for restoring peace goes to the tribal elders, who had laid the basis for peace some two years back when they clinched the Murree Peace Accord. But peace remained a reluctant arrival as the area was in the grip of sectarian strife costing over 3,000 deaths over the last three years. Given the hard times the ordinary people of the Agency have faced, living in literally quarantined conditions, it is our hope that the newly restored peace would survive, and over time, flourish.

The Kurram Agency has immense potential, in terms of men and material, to grow into an economic leader for the entire FATA region. Also, we hope the peace and amity between the rival sectarian communities of Kurram Agency, which was never short on sectarian violence, would prove to be infectious for the entire country.

But as we see the glass half full, it is also half empty; like many other peace accords stitched by the tribal elders, the Kurram Agency peace will remain under threat of disruption. There is a viewpoint that by 'welcoming' the Sunni-Shia peace accord, the Taliban have tried to convey that it is they who brought it about and its survival would remain hostage to their support and sponsorship.

There is also an opinion that the Taliban's patronage mainly stems from their motive to keep the 'hinterland' for the Haqqani network's anti-Isaf activities across the border. Yes, the said group wields a lot of influence in the area and has forces in the contiguous areas in Pakistan sympathetic to its cause, but it would be too simplistic to suggest that the ages old sectarian strife in Kurram Agency is a by-product of the Afghan situation.

The fact should not be overlooked that the peace accord signed by the Sunni-Shia leaders was greatly assisted by a prominent tribal leader Malik Waris Khan Afridi, a former federal minister, with active participation of a local political agent. The entire thing has been worked out in line with the tribal system of resolving disputes between tribes - which in this case also happen to be of different sectarian denominations.

Newly arrived peace in Kurram Agency has to be fortified by adding supports attractive enough for the people of the area to weigh in for its continuity. That may appear to be difficult in the present circumstances when a part of the highway to regional capital city Parachinar remains under the threat of disruption flowing from the adjoining tribal areas. But once the Thall-Parachinar section is pliable, the rest would be manageable by the security forces.

The people in the entire region are hungry for the normalcy of the situation so that they can come out of their besieged conditions. The revival of border town Kharlachi's potential to regain its clout as a principal timber market on the Pak-Afghan border and Parachinar's tourist attraction should take no time now that peace has returned. Equally, critical input for the revival of normal life in Kurram Agency is the appointment of a new governor of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Granted the outgoing incumbent Owais Ahmad Ghani was always open to new ideas and suggestions for the betterment of the people in FATA, which the governor of KP rules directly as the president's representative, but he had a certain mindset shaped by the ethos popular in the Musharraf era. But that is no more the case, Governor Masood Kauser doesn't carry any baggage and his maiden remarks as the new governor that 'Our priority should be to bring peace to the tribal areas' are expected to create a more realistic approach to restoring normalcy in this troubled region of great strategic importance to Pakistan.




Saturday, February 12, 2011

The future of the Kurram Accord

The Express Tribune

The future of the Kurram Accord


Why has the Fata jirga concluded an accord between the Sunnis and Shias under the authority of the taliban and not under the authority of the governmant of Pakistan. PHOTO: EPA

On Friday 3 February, 2011, a jirga composed of the elders of Fata announced a peace accord between Shias and Sunnis at Parachinar, the headquarters of the Kurram Agency. What has happened immediately to disarm suspicion is the opening of the Parachinar-Tal Road that has isolated the Shia community of Kurram since 2007 and exposed them to harm, as they tried to go to their homes through Afghanistan. The jirga has appealed to the government of Pakistan to ensure the execution of the accord, meaning clearly that it should re-establish its writ in the agency and ensure that the roads opened through a cross-sectarian agreement are safe from the Taliban adventurers known to be under no single command. One guarantor of the accord is a Taliban commander in Kurram, Fazal Saeed, declaring that "anyone violating the new accord would be punished according to shariah."

Does this mean that both the Shias and Sunnis will observe the accord under the authority of the Taliban? Why has the Fata jirga concluded this accord between the two warring sects under the authority of the Taliban and not under the authority of the government of Pakistan? And if the Taliban are going to implement the accord how will the Shias — whom they consider apostate from Islam — submit themselves to their authority except as second-class citizens?

The government moved first in the direction of alleviating the suffering of Kurram in 2008. It got the two sects together in Murree and signed its own accord. This accord pledged the warring parties to vacate their forward positions, disarm their warriors and allow the Shia IDPs to return home in peace. The government was the guarantor of the accord but it decided not to act after the Taliban attacked the Shias again. After that, as Baitullah was succeeded by Hakimullah as head of the Taliban, the killings actually doubled. Interior Minister Rehman Malik gave the Taliban a 72-hour 'ultimatum' to cease offences and get out; when they did not, he simply forgot Kurram.

For all his talent at sorting out issues, Rehman Malik was overreaching himself. He was not aware that the peace at Kurram would come only after the army reclaimed the agency from the Taliban. The Kurram Shia community dropped out of the radar of Pakistan's strategy when they refused to take part in General Zia's covert war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The general allowed the Sunni mujahideen to sort out the Kurram Shias before he died. The Shia leader Ariful Hussaini, who General Zia was accused of killing in Peshawar, was a Turi from Kurram. Zia allowed a similar massacre of the Shias in Gilgit the same year.

To some, the army has its reasons for not caring for the sufferings of the Kurram Shias, who form 40 per cent of Kurram's population of one million. Since their 'strategic abandonment', they have fled in trickles to cities like Tal, Hangu and Kohat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where there are now significant pockets of Shia population. This area is now the target of the Taliban. An informally named ghetto, Shiagarh, has been an obvious target, located just 10 miles from Kohat going to the city of Hangu.

The Shias of Kurram Agency or Hangu travelling to Peshawar through Darra Adam Khel have been intercepted by the Taliban and beheaded, while Shias have, at times, blocked the Kohat-Hangu road and kidnapped Sunnis to exchange for the kidnapped Shias in Darra Adam Khel. The Taliban have come as far as Peshawar to put down a Shia leader, knowing that the Shias fleeing from Kurram have also landed with their friends in Peshawar. In Kohat, such notorious persons — including one particular ex-MNA known for his alleged links to al Qaeda and for his nexus with Lal Masjid in Islamabad — are known to be behind attacks on Shias. Pakistan's paramilitary forces fight the Taliban, but every time the latter catch hold of our paramilitaries, they release the Sunnis on the basis of some swap deal but behead the Shias. The Kurram accord has little chance of holding unless the Shias swear allegiance to the Taliban against Pakistan. For the time being, however, they must wait, like the people of North Waziristan, for the writ of the state to return to their region.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2011.




Peace in Kurram Agency

The Express Tribune 

Peace in Kurram Agency

Published: February 12, 2011

The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata

Sectarian hostility in Kurram Agency dates back to the British era. Muharram in Parachinar has not been a peaceful event for many years now. Before the advent of sectarian organisations, like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Muhammad, sectarian conflict was common in Kurram Agency. Intertribal issues such as distribution of water, cutting of wood and denial of road access, ultimately morphed into sectarian conflict. Minor conflicts were witnessed almost every year, while major sectarian clashes erupted in 1982, 1996 and 2007. The Iranian revolution, the entry of Sunni Afghan refugees and the influx of lethal weapons during the Afghan jihad are some of the factors contributing to the intensity and frequency of sectarian violence.

In the 1982 sectarian clashes more than 60 Shia families were displaced from Sadda, a Sunni dominated area and they were forced to migrate to Parachinar, a Shia dominated area. In 1990, a jirga gave a verdict for the resettlement of displaced Shias and the return of their property. However, this decision was never implemented. By 2006, the Taliban had penetrated the Sunni areas of central and lower Kurram. Local Taliban, controlled by the Taliban of South Waziristan, emerged in these areas. In April 2007, participants of a Sunni procession in upper Kurram, raised objectionable slogans against Shias. The Shias reacted and took out a protest procession in Parachinar. Some people fired on this procession and this led to sectarian clashes, which spread to other parts of the Agency. In November 2007, violence erupted again after unidentified people attacked the central mosque in Parachinar, where Sunnis were offering Friday prayers. Hundreds of people from both sects were killed during these clashes and 40 villages were destroyed. More than 3,000 families were displaced. The Thall-Parachinar Road remained closed for almost four years.

A grand Jirga comprising of representatives from all tribal agencies as well as the parliamentarian from Kurram, was constituted in 2008. With the efforts of the Jirga, the Murree Peace Accord was signed by the warring factions in October of the same year.

There were elements within and outside the agency, including the Taliban, who never wanted this accord to be implemented. As a result of hectic efforts, the opponents of the accord were brought on board and the main issue of opening the Thall-Parachinar Road has been resolved, raising the hopes of locals about having a lasting peace in the area.

Both sects have signed a number of peace accords in the past, but these were violated. Only time will tell whether this accord, will bring lasting peace to the Agency. The extent of suffering the people have endured, the huge losses incurred and the duration of this conflict, are some of the reasons which may force the people from both sects to honour this accord. Sectarian conflict may not disappear all together, but the accord may help in preventing violence on a large scale.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2011.