Wednesday, February 9, 2011

iRONIC as the situation may be, the TTP has welcomed a peace agreement

IRONIC as the situation may be, the TTP has welcomed a peace agreement between the Shia and Sunni factions of Kurram Agency and pledged to abide by it.

This was communicated by the group's Kurram amir Fazal Saeed — wanted by the Government of Pakistan with a Rs5m bounty on his head — at a news conference. The militant leader added that those who violated the accord would be "punished in accordance with the Sharia" and assured the Shia community that it could use the Thall-Parachinar road without fear. The route has become a virtual death trap due to a Taliban blockade. Even convoys accompanied by security forces have been ambushed. Though the prospects for peace should be welcomed, there are reasons to be circumspect. Firstly, it is a clear sign that the state has lost its writ in an area when a wanted man guarantees a peace agreement. Secondly, the Taliban are the major reason for the area's destabilisation. Can they be trusted to abide by the agreement? There have been peace deals in the past which have been most notable for the number of times they have been violated. There are also reports that the deal has the blessings of the Sirajuddin Haqqani network (believed to have established itself in Kurram) while the security establishment has accepted this role. The area — bordering Afghanistan — is of immense strategic importance and observers say the sectarian conflict was affecting the Haqqani network's anti-Isaf activities across the border. There is a perception that although local militants may honour the agreement, groups from Hangu or Kohat may try and sabotage it.

Thousands have been killed, injured and displaced while scores of villages have been torched since violence began in 2007 with the Taliban's arrival. However, the local administration and security forces are equally responsible for their abject failure in quelling the violence. For there to be genuine peace in Kurram the state — and not militants — must set the agenda. If peace is established, the government should initiate an investigation to take account of the human and material losses as a result of the violence, and the guilty must be brought to book.




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