Pakistan: Thousands of Sunni families expected to return to northwest after peace accord
(AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - At least 3,000 Sunni families who fled sectarian violence are likely to return to Pakistan's restive northwestern Kurram tribal region following a recent peace accord between Shia and Sunni tribal elders, according to Pakistani security sources. The peace accord was also recognised by the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan Taliban chief in Kurram, Fazl Saeed told journalists by phone on Monday from an undisclosed location that militants would severely punish anyone who flouted the peace deal, which was signed on 3 February, ending years of bloodshed.Saeed urged Shias to use main transport arteries including the Thall-Parachinar road.The peace accord brought to an end three years of sectarian killings in Kurram, which borders Afghanistan. Taliban-backed Sunni militias and other Taliban-linked groups terrorised the Shia population in Kurram from 2007 and at least 5,000 Shias took refuge in Afghanistan.Sunni militias barred all the main roads in the area for at least two years, forcing Shias living in Kurram's main town of Parachinar to travel through the easterm Afghan province of Nangarhar to reach the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar.Later, Shia militias, allegedly backed by the Iran and the Afghan government, fought back against the pro-Taliban Sunni militias and forced at least 3,000 Sunni families to flee to other Pakistani cities.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 peace deal.Afridi said the safe and secure return of the tribesmen will be ensured by the government and Sunni and Shia tribesmen have pledged to uphold the deal.