EDITORIAL: Kurram Agency under attack
The attack on inhabitants of the Kurram Agency, one of the deadliest so far, is one of the most brutal and bloody even for an Agency with a reputation as a centre of long-drawn-out sectarian violence. On Friday, two minibuses carrying Shia passengers and travelling from Peshawar to Kurram were fired at by suspected militants, killing 13 people and wounding 18. It is also reported that some 16 Shia passengers have been abducted. There are some unconfirmed reports that the number of abductees in this ambush is in fact much more. Most of the passengers belonged to the Toori tribe of Kurram, predominately Shia and unwilling to bend to militant rule in the Agency. It is little wonder then that they are incurring the wrath of villains who, reportedly, have deep connections to Pakistan's establishment.
The history of Kurram Agency is a sordid one: strife with violence in the name of sectarianism and double games by some of the highest powers in the land. Kurram is a strategic hot zone as it is a part of FATA but also juts into Afghanistan — hence called the Parrot's Beak — providing militants with easy access to Afghanistan in their war against US/NATO troops. It is a strategic staging ground for the militants. It is well known that our intelligence establishment has plenty of 'friends' amongst the Afghan Taliban, who they consider strategic assets in any end deal in Afghanistan after the US/NATO troop withdrawal. It is because of this cushy relationship that the predominant Shia majority in Kurram has been under increasing pressure by the establishment to allow the militants to relocate to the area. Not only would this save them from the spate of drone attacks in North Waziristan (NW), the military establishment would be able to preserve its proxies if it is forced to undertake an operation in NW. Kurram will also provide the militants with a perfect launch pad for any attacks in Afghanistan. The Shia tribes in Kurram, in the past, stood their ground and refused to allow any such militant relocation. However, dual policies and double games by those who are quite well versed in such tactics brought about such a violent situation in Kurram through stoking the fires of Sunni-Shia sectarianism that the area saw bitter rivalries between the two sects with bloody attacks on both sides, attacks that had never occurred before Kurram came onto the radar of the establishment. The situation became so bad that the Parachinar Highway, the main access road between Kurram and the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was blocked, causing immense difficulty for travellers and supplies to the area. Those braving alternate routes, including a circuitous route through Afghanistan and back into Pakistan, ran the risk of being looted, kidnapped for ransom or murdered. Due to such a dire situation, the Shia tribes had no other choice but to entertain the wishes of the establishment and a peace deal was inked (and the Parachinar Highway reopened) in February in which it is rumoured the Haqqani network participated to broker the deal.
Now Kurram is at the mercy of the militants. The dignity of its people, who stood against hosting the militants initially, has been beaten out of them. This latest incident follows a long line of similar attacks on the Shia inhabitants. The Taliban, whether Afghan or Pakistani, have always considered the Shia to be heretics and now it looks like it is payback time for these 'infidels' who dared stand up to the militants. Kurram is convulsing at warp speed due to the dual policies of those who consider the militants friends. This vile game must be stopped; in the end, it is the people of Pakistan who suffer at the hands of these 'strategic assets'. *