As hundreds of youths from Parachinar in the restive Kurram Agency marched towards Parliament House on Monday, inside the House, Interior Minister Rehman Malik assured the lower house that security escorts will be provided to commuters and the blocked road leading to Parachinar will be reopened in 48 hours.
The charged protesting youth also staged a sit-in outside Parliament House after packing the five-day protest camp they had set up outside the National Press Club in F-6.
In the question hour session of the National Assembly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik assured the house that Parachinar-Thal-Peshawar Road would be opened and a military escort will be deployed at the troubled patch of the road to provide protection to civilian convoys.
MNA from Kurram Agency Sajid Hussain Turi boycotted the National Assembly proceedings and joined the protesting youth.
MQM's MPs led by their Parliamentary Leader Haider Abbas Rizvi also visited the camp to express solidarity with the protesters.
The protesters have come from different localities and assembled in the Capital in favour of their demands after eight of the 41 people taken hostage by the Taliban on March 25 were returned beheaded, burnt and mutilated.
These people were taken hostage by the Taliban while travelling on the Thal-Parachinar-Peshawar Road. The remaining 33 people are still being held captive by the militants.
Addressing the gathering, Haider Abbas Rizvi demanded that the government make concrete efforts to recover the 33 missing people. He asked the government to restore C-130 air service immediately in the interest of people of the area.
Sajid Turi said that this time we will not accept the government's hollow promises of restoring peace in the area. "Until the demands are met, I will not attend the National Assembly session," he added.
The young protesters were chanting slogans against the Taliban and the government. They felt the government's apathy towards the humanitarian issue was 'senseless'. "We will continue our protest until the government comes up with concrete steps," they said.
Qalandar Bangash, a university student, said that it seems that Parachinar is not part of the country as the Parachinar-Thal-Peshawar Road has been closed for the last four years and the people of Parachinar are facing tremendous problems. According to the protesters, the city is being held hostage by a "handful" of Taliban, who could easily be eliminated if the establishment had the will to do so.
Rohullah, a student of University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar, said, "I left my final year examination to join the protest in Islamabad to highlight a genuine issue."
He said there was only a pocket, a kilometre or so, where the miscreants were hiding and blocking the road, denying people in Upper Kurram access to Peshawar and the rest of the country.
Before the closure of the Pak-Afghan border for security reasons in 2008, people in Upper Kurram were using the Afghanistan route to access Peshawar. Worryingly, now they do not even have access to the basic necessities of life.
With additional reporting by Umer Nangiana
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2011.