Tal-Parachinar highway to reopen on Saturday; tribesmen agree to honour the jirga.
ISLAMABAD: The four-year-long tribal feud between the majority Shia and minority Sunni communities in Parachinar came to an end on Thursday, as the two sides signed a historic peace accord.
Top tribal elders and parliamentarians representing the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) announced that the accord will come into effect from February 5, with the reopening of the main highway between Tal and Parachinar. The road was closed because of bloody armed clashes that left over 2,000 people dead and over 3,500 injured over the past three years. Similarly, all key roads in the entire Kurram tribal agency will also be reopened for traffic. The accord will be marked with the performance of tribal "Teega" by all local tribal heads and jirga leaders to declare a formal ceasefire.
More than 3,000 families had to abandon their hometowns to shift to safer places in Peshawar and parts of Fata, during the sectarian violence and bloodshed.
Jirga Chief Malik Waris Khan Afridi, while giving the details of the accord to the media, said the federal government will financially compensate the affected tribesmen soon.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik also attended the news conference to demonstrate the government's support for the historic peace accord.
The Shia community suffered more loss to life and finances as the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban supported rival Sunni groups. Over 200 people were killed by suicide attacks by the Taliban against the rival sect.
The tribesmen of Parachinar region were forced to travel via Afghanistan to visit other parts of Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for over three years, due to the closure of the Tal-Parachinar highway.
The federal government encouraged Fata parliamentarians to resolve the issue and arrange a ceasefire between the two conflicting parties.
Headed by Malik Waris Khan Afridi, the former federal minister from Khyber Agency, the 220-member tribal jirga took two years to arrange a negotiated settlement of the issue.
MNA Sajid Toori from Parachinar and MNA Muneer Orakzai played leading roles to bring the two sides to the negotiation table.
Giving the details of the accord, Afridi said the safe and secure return of the tribesmen will be ensured by the government. He added that the jirga was in fact a continuation of the Murree accord, which was arranged a few months ago for ceasefire. In response to the demands by the jirga, the interior minister announced that the government will financially compensate the affected people. He said that he would forward a formal summary to the prime minister for a special package for the victims of the clashes.
Tribesmen across all divides have assured the government of their support for the peace accord. "We have been assured by all tribesmen that they will honour the decisions taken by the jirga," Afridi concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2011.