Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Road to Kurram reopens after four years

Road to Kurram reopens after four years

Participants of a convey arrive in Khurram Agency. - Dawn

PARACHINAR, Feb 8: Strife-torn Kurram Agency burst into joyous scenes on Tuesday as local tribesmen celebrated a peace deal between the Shia and Sunni sects that led to the reopening of Thall-Parachinar Road after four years.

People who had lived in fear all these years were seen distributing sweets and dancing with abandon in the streets of Parachinar and Sadda towns. It was pleasing to see Sunnis and Shias mingle freely and exchange pleasantries.

Elders of the Turi tribe received inhabitants of Bushara, a Sunni-dominated in Parachinar which had remained blockaded for three years, while tribesmen in Sadda and Chappari arranged welcome parties for the participants of the peace rally.

Similarly residents of Balishkhel and Sadda met with each other after a long time.

The checkpost at Balishkel used to serve as buffer zone between the warring factions.

The locals used to call it Wahga Border, a reference to the Pakistan-India border.

"Everybody is happy and celebrating the occasion by taking part in traditional dance and distributing sweets in Parachinar," said Mumtaz Hussain, a shopkeeper in the town. The area, which witnessed the worst sectarian violence, was echoing with the slogans of 'Sunni-Shia Bhai Bhai' (Sunni and Shia are brothers).

A convoy comprising about 100 vehicles left Peshawar for Parachinar on Tuesday.

The head of the jirga that brokered the peace accord and former federal minister, Malik Waris Khan Afridi, Political Agent Syed Musadiq Shah along and other elders of the area accompanied the convoy.

The elders of Musazai, Alisherzai, Mangal and Bangash tribes warmly received hundreds of the participants of the convoy at Chappari, Bagan, Alizai, Sadda and Balishkhel.

The Thall-Parachinar Road, the only artery linking Kurram with other parts of the country, remained closed to normal traffic since November 2007 when clashes broke out in the area.

More than 3,000 people had been killed and some 50 villages burnt in the clashes, resulting in displacement of hundreds of families from the area.

The road was reopened after rival factions agreed on implementation of the peace agreement, signed in Murree in October 2008. Significantly, the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also endorsed the peace deal and announced ban on display of weapons on the main road.

The residents of the area said that prices of commodities came down in the area after signing of the peace deal. The prices of petroleum were decreased from Rs180 to 140 per litre while the price of light diesel reduced to Rs110 from Rs140 per litre.

The locals have been largely relying on Afghanistan for getting these items.

Political Agent Musadiq told Dawn that reopening of the road would help in restoring trust and confidence among the people.

"Our main priority is to keep the road open to address people's miseries and restore confidence," he said, adding that political administration would take more steps for sustainable peace in the area.

Malik Waris Khan said that Murree agreement would be implement in letter and spirit as both factions had expressed their will to cooperate with the jirga.

He said that reopening of the road was main hurdle and now other minor issues would be addressed soon.



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