Thall-Para Chinar road re-opens after 4 years
PARA CHINAR – A key road will re-open as part of a peace deal that a 16-member tribal jirga struck in the restive tribal region of Kurram Agency bordering Afghanistan February 4.
"The important Thall-Para Chinar road, which was closed for the past four years due to Taliban attacks, will be open for all types of traffic on February 5," said Munir Orakzai."The important Thall-Para Chinar road, which was closed for the past four years due to Taliban attacks, will be open for all types of traffic on February 5," said Munir Orakzai, a Kurram parliamentarian and member of the jirga.
Besides re-opening the road, Sunni and Shia tribal leaders agreed to rehabilitate and compensate affected families, end sectarian hostilities and clear their areas of militants. The federal government is supporting the agreement.
Sectarian strife and later the increasing influence of the Taliban ripped the social fabric of Kurram Agency, said Asad Ali, a former resident of Para Chinar who moved to Peshawar for security reasons.
Para Chinar road had been deemed unsafe
In 2007, authorities declared the Thall-Para Chinar road unsafe for travel. Sectarian attacks devastated Shia and Sunni homes, places of worship and business centres in Para Chinar and its surrounding areas. More than 3,000 Shia and Sunni tribesmen were killed during the past four years of intra-tribal conflict. Thousands of locals fled their homes.
"I think the (unwanted presence of) Taliban militants compelled the warring sects to join hands and live peacefully in the area," a local journalist said on condition of anonymity. "Now the Taliban will not be able to take advantage of their hostilities."
Without the road, Para Chinar residents had to use the Kabul-Torkhum route to reach Peshawar and other parts of Pakistan.
Re-opening will bring prosperity, some predict
The road re-opening will usher in an era of prosperity in the Shia community, which had lived under a persistent Taliban threat, many in Kurram Agency said.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters who had fled from military operations in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur and Swat took refuge in different parts of Kurram Agency, Said Wazir, a resident of Sadda sub-division, said.
"The Taliban presence in Kurram jeopardised the peace in the area besides putting at risk the lives of most Shia," Wazir observed.
Malik Waris Khan Afridi, a member of the jirga, told Central Asia Online that he hoped Pakistani security forces would protect the road and that the federal government, which is backing the deal, would compensate affected families.
The local population suffered monetary losses of 1.6 billion rupees (US $18.6m) during the four years of fighting, the government has estimated.
Families affected by militancy will be compensated
Compensation to affected families will go out in instalments, with the first Rs. 300m due in the coming week, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik told jirga members in Islamabad.
Taliban fighters from across the border are responsible for continued unrest in Kurram Agency, Malik alleged.
"The terror unleashed by the Taliban in Kurram is misinterpreted as sectarian strife," Rehman Malik said, noting that local elders have agreed to cleanse their area of all miscreants.
The local administration will ensure the safe return and repatriation of all the displaced families from Para Chinar and Sadda, Orakzai said. Local clerics in their Friday sermons lauded the peace deal and urged the local communities to abide by it.
"Let's rise against the enemies of our land and throw them out of our areas," a local religious leader urged local residents during Friday prayers.