Sunday, February 13, 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.




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