Thursday, May 26, 2011

Four more killed ahead of Kurram ceasefire

Four more killed ahead of Kurram ceasefire

PARACHINAR, May 25: The warring tribes of Shia and Sunni sects agreed to ceasefire in violence-ravaged Baleshkhel area of upper Kurram tribal region on Wednesday.
However, four more persons were killed and 18 others received injuries in the area before announcement of ceasefire.
To bring an end to clashes in different areas of the agency, the elders of Turi and Bangash tribes during a meeting with the political authorities and FC officials in Parachinar agreed to take urgent steps for a truce and restoration of lasting peace in the volatile tribal region.
The elders of six tribes of Ahle Sunnat had already declared a unilateral ceasefire in Sadda tehsil a day earlier.
Anjum-i-Farooqia president Fazal Qadir Orakzai, Qari Taj Mohammad and Abdul Karim told journalists that they had directed their men to hold fire even if armed men of rival Turi and Bangash tribes continued targeting them.
The Turi and Bangash tribes made a formal announcement of ceasefire after talks with the government authorities. The leaders of Shia community, Haji Yousaf Turi and MNA Sajid Turi, demanded of the government to take effective measures to end hostility between the warring tribes.
They promised to cooperate with security forces and administration in bringing durable peace to the restive region. "The war is imposed on us as the rival tribes target our men and properties without any provocation," they said.
They added that Kurram Agency could no more bear lawlessness and appropriate steps should be taken for exemplary peace in the region.
Political Agent Syed Musadiq Shah and FC officials welcomed the ceasefire by Turi and Bangash tribes and hoped the other side would also abide by the decision.
Later, a jirga led by MNA Sajid Turi left for Baleshkhel area to stop clashes by implementing the truce in letter and spirit. The FC personnel also started moving to Baleshkhel to take control of the area and ask warring tribes to vacate bunkers.
Before the ceasefire, four persons were killed and 10 others injured in Baleshkhel area. Eight members of Turi tribe were also injured in the clashes. The number of casualties reached to 26, including two militant commanders. The injuries were reported as 80 so far in the clashes started a few days ago.
Two persons were injured when a mortar shell fired by militants on populated area of Shalozan from hilltops hit a house. The wife of Zenath Bangash and another person sustained injuries in the attack. They were taken to a hospital in Parachinar in critical condition.
The educational institutions remained closed, affecting thousands of studnets in the region. The continued closure of Tall-Parachinar Road has also paralysed life in the restive region. The shortage of essential food items and life saving medicines has further aggravated the situation.

Four killed in Kurram clashes

Thursday, May 26, 2011
Four killed in Kurram clashes
By our correspondent
PARACHINAR: Four persons were killed and 18 others sustained injuries in fresh clashes between the Turi, Bangash and other tribes in Balishkhel in Kurram Agency on Wednesday, tribal sources said. The clashes that have assumed sectarian colour continued for the last six days. Four persons were killed and 18 were injured.


The cost of Pakistan's double game

The cost of Pakistan's double game

BY DAUD KHATTAK, MAY 25, 2011     Share

The past week has witnessed major attacks on key Pakistani military and intelligence facilities by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that for the past several years has fought an increasingly brutal and brash war in the heart of the Pakistani state. Yet while the attacks, and in particular the lengthy siege of the Mehran naval base in Karachi, have brought condemnation on the military for lax security procedures, few within Pakistan have openly questioned the state's long-running dance with militant groups, many of whom cooperate closely while alternately working with and fighting Pakistan. But a string of events in the past few years have made the question of Pakistani support for - or allowance of - terrorist and militant groups unavoidable.
In the days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush's remarks that nations would from then on be "with us or with the terrorists" and his direct threats to Pakistan to sever ties with militants forced then-military leader Pervez Musharraf to take a U-turn and begin targeting selected al-Qaeda and other militant leaders.
However, as the dust from the U.S. warning started settling down, truck-loads of Arab and Uzbek fighters and their Taliban facilitators from eastern Afghanistan's Khost province and other parts of the country started traveling to and settling in Pakistan's tribal areas. Through the payment of money along with various kinds of intimidation, those terrorists and their supporters won the loyalties and support, or simply the acquiescence, of the tribesmen, many of whom continue to suffer at the hands of their unwanted guests.
Yet even after militants were allowed to settle in the tribal areas with little resistance from the Pakistani state, the tribesmen were (and are still) told that it was because of U.S. drone strikesthat these "holy warriors" fled to their areas. Hence, each missile against foreign militants or their Pakistani counterparts increased the potential number of militants flowing in and fueled rising anti-Americanism in Pakistan, serving the short-term political interests of pro-Taliban elements in the country's security establishment, while allowing the army to play on anti-American sentiment domestically while still occasionally offering militants to the United States, either for arrest or targeting by drones, as a sign of good faith and in order to maintain a steady flow of military aid.
Recent history provides ample room for suspicion that the relationship between militants and the Pakistani military or intelligence agencies continues. Some key points should lead informed observers, for instance, to suspect some knowledge of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's presence in the highly-secured cantonment town of Abbottabad among Pakistani intelligence officials. For instance, the structure of the house is very different from the rest of the buildings in the area, and that plus the barbed wires atop its 18 to 20 feet high boundary walls would have likely drawn some suspicion to the compound's residents.
The compound is located less than a kilometer from Pakistan's Kakul Military Academy.  Security officials, who keep a strict watch on anyone entering and living in a cantonment zone, somehow managed to miss the compound, which sticks out from the others around it. The Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani even visited the Kakul Academy less than 10 days before the May 2 raid, something that was undoubtedly preceded by security officials combing the nearby areas for any suspicious people or activities, as is the standard practice for such visits. Additionally, locals told the writer that three gas connections were provided to the house within a few days after its construction, which otherwise takes weeks if not months. But again, no alarm was raised.
Additionally, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Sipah-e-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP) continue to operate openly despite being nominally banned. Indeed, locals I have spoken with in Kurram agency blame Pakistani intelligence for bringing the Sunnis against the Shi'a there, simply to show the world that Pakistan is heading towards de-stabilization and only U.S. and international support can save the society from becoming radical (not to mention the benefit accrued by the Haqqani network, who now have space to operate if their North Waziristan sanctuary is compromised). And a brief look at some of the militants operating in Pakistan currently raises questions about how they have been able to implant themselves and continue operating.
For instance, is it believable that Khyber agency-based militant and former bus driver Mangal Bagh, a warlord with no more than 500 volunteers, can operate just 15 kilometers away from Pakistan's 11 Corps headquarters in the town of Bara, kidnapping people from Peshawar and other parts of the country, attacking powerful tribal elders, ministers, and journalists from Khyber agency, attacking NATO supply convoys, and carrying out public attacks and executions? Maulana Fazlullah, a leading warlord in the Swat Valley, a man who was once a chair-lift operator on the Swat River, became the most powerful commander in the area in a span of two years, with little government opposition. When the military conducted an operation in Swat upon the request of the secular Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) government in Khyber-Puktunkhwa, Fazlullah somehow managed to break a cordon of 20,000 soldiers backed by helicopters and jets to escape. And in Bajaur, Taliban commander Faqir Muhammad's forces were "cleared" in 2008, but though hundreds of thousands of locals were displaced, their houses destroyed, their crops burnt and their cattle killed, Faqir Muhammad continues to leave peacefully in the agency.
And those who rose up to confront the Taliban received little protection from the government. When the ANP, after coming into power in Khyber-Puktunkhwa, raised its voice against the Taliban, party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan was attacked by a suicide bomber inside his house in his hometown of Charsadda. Since then, the party leadership has lived in Islamabad. The party's spokesman and Information Minister Mian Iftikhar's son was killed by armed men close to his house last July. Mian Iftikhar and another outspoken minister of the KP government, Bashir Bilour, escaped several attempts on their lives; Asfandyar Wali Khan's sister Dr. Gulalay, who is not involved with party politics, was attacked in Peshawar, and ANP lawmaker Alam Zeb Khan waskilled in a bomb attack in the same city, before finally the party leadership and members were forced to stop their vocal opposition to the militants.
One key problem in the Pakistan-U.S. relationship, particularly in the present situation, is that both countries are dependent on each other despite pursuing contrasting interests in Afghanistan and in South Asia. And to keep this marriage of convenience going, the U.S. will likely come out with some praise for Pakistani efforts, more than Sen. John Kerry did during his recent Islamabad trip, while Pakistan may launch some kind of sham military operation in North Waziristan and may kill or arrest some Haqqani, Taliban or al-Qaeda leaders just to brush aside the U.S. and international opinion about its support for the al-Qaeda and Taliban.
Just last week the Pakistani Army announced the arrest of a "senior Yemeni al-Qaeda operative" named Mohammed Ali Qasim, or Abu Suhaib al-Makki, in the teeming city of Karachi. While al-Makki's place in the al-Qaeda hierarchy is in dispute, he was somehow able to live undisturbed in Pakistan for 10 years, only to be arrested just days after bin Laden's death. Expect to see more "senior" leaders arrested or killed, whether in operations or drone strikes, in the coming weeks and months.
Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates, drawing covert support from some individuals in the intelligence apparatus, may carry out attacks in cities, on mosques, and even on military and government installations just to remind the world that the country is itself a victim of terrorism - just look for example to last week's devastating suicide bombing in Charsadda on a paramilitary constabulary post, claimed by the TT
P, the attacks last week against the Saudi consulate and a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, or this week's attacks against the Mehran base and yesterday's attack on the police Criminal Investigations Department in Peshawar.
The Pakistani media does not and will not help ease the heightened tension between Pakistan and the United States. Heavily influenced by the security establishment, it presents an image of the society that is anti-American to the core. This image is simply not true, but instead originated from the handpicked anchorpersons of the private Pakistani TV channels, who run after interviews with Taliban commanders to increase their profiles, and some selected analysts and commentators, who present that picture of Pakistani society to the United States, constantly raising the specter of a Pakistan on the edge of a collapse into fundamentalism.
But instead of turning away from Pakistan, the United States must listen carefully to the demands of the Pakistani security and political establishment, while also plainly conveying their own. And instead of investing in the generals and politicians, the U.S. should focus its attentions more thoroughly on Pakistani society and its long-term economic and social needs that have nothing to do with the Taliban. It is the army and the government who always disappoint the United States, and it is the Pakistani people who always end up disappointed with the United States.
These are the simple but key steps that have to be taken. If not, instability will prevail in Afghanistan and terrorist safe havens will survive in the tribal areas. Innocent people in all parts of Pakistan will continue to fall prey to the Taliban and other jihadist groups, and the eventual U.S. withdrawal from and the hastily arranged peace deal in Afghanistan will not alleviate the situation. But no change can take place unless President Obama and the world revive Bush's ultimatum, and tell Pakistan's military and civilian leadership that they are either "with us or with the terrorists."
Daud Khattak is a journalist working with RFE/RL's Pashto language Mashaal Radio in Prague.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Militant commander killed in Kurram clashes

Militant commander killed in Kurram clashes

By Our Correspondent | From the Newspaper
PARACHINAR, May 24: A militant commander was killed and three tribesmen were injured when fresh clashes erupted in Kurram tribal region on Tuesday, sources said.
They said that militant commander Fareed Marwat, a resident of Lakki Marwat district, was shot dead during a clash in Baleshkhel and Khar Kallay areas of upper Kurram.
Sources said that his body was sent to his native town. Three members of Turi tribe were also injured in the fighting, they added. Militants fired missiles and rockets from the hills of Tangi at the populated areas of Shalozan and Luqmankhel with some intervals, creating panic and fear among the residents. The residents expressed anguish over the silence of local administration and security forces.
Militants expedited their attacks soon after Peshawar corps commander and IG FC, during their addresses to a tribal jirga in Parachinar, hinted at launching a military operation in the tribal region.
The tribal elders had assured security forces of all out cooperation in case the operation was launched.
The elders of Turi-Bangash tribe, traders, ulema, members of parliament staged protest demonstration against local administration and FC personnel for allegedly supporting militants.
Complete shutdown was observed in Parachinar Bazaar and a rally was taken out by Turi tribesmen to lodge their protest against the alleged links between administration and their rival tribes.
The rally, after passing through various roads, converged on Hayat Shaheed Park where it turned into a big public meeting. The protesters were chanting slogans against government, administration and FC personnel.
The rally was addressed by head of Turi-Bangash tribe Capt (retired) Yousaf Turi, MNA Sajjid Turi, former Senator Alama Syed Abid Hussain, Alama Altaf Hussain and others.
They alleged that security forces were targeting their men instead of taking action against militants. "Despite our cooperation with security forces during operation such attitude is out of our understanding," they said.
They alleged that their two men were killed and several others injured in artillery shelling by security forces.
Meanwhile, deadlock was reported in the talks with militants for safe release of 31 kidnapped passengers. Sources said that Taliban demanded Rs60 million as ransom for release of 31 Turi tribesmen, who were kidnapped by them on March 26.
KOHAT: At least 15 houses were burnt when Taliban attacked Jammu area in Frontier Region of Kohat on Monday night.
The residents of the area had raised an armed lashkar against Taliban.
The militants, who came from Darra Adamkhel, torched several houses, forcing the inmates to run for their safety. The attackers sprinkled kerosene oil on the houses and set them on fire.
Fifteen houses were gutted completely, however, no loss of life was reported in the attack, according to an official press issued here on Tuesday.
Shafarish Khan, a local tribal elder, told Dawn that the tribesmen of Jammu had vacated the village on the orders of army for a search operation last month.
They were living in Kohat with their relatives and in rented houses and hotels, he added.
Security forces had also established two checkpoints in the village to stop intrusion of militants from Darra Adamkhel. But the biggest threat faced by the local tribesmen was rockets fired by militants from the mountains. Such attacks had claimed several lives.
The tribesmen had started returning to their homes recently after army took control of the village.

Warring group announces ceasefire in Kurram Agency

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
SADDA: Elders of six tribes of the Ahle Sunnat on Tuesday announced a unilateral ceasefire in Sadda tehsil of Kurram Agency in a bid to bring an end to the ongoing hostilities that left several people dead over the last three days. 

Talking to reporters, President of Anjum-e-Farooqia Fazal Qadir Orakzai, Qari Taj Muhammad and Abdul Karim said that they had directed their men to hold fire even if the armed men of Turi and Bangash tribes continue targeting them. 

They said that 15 persons were killed and 37 in-jured from both sides in the clashes. The local administration clamped curfew in Sadda bazaar for three days and all the schools and markets will remain closed during this period.

In Hangu, the people affected by the Kurram Agency violence accused the elders of a rival sect of violating the peace agreements. Led by the president of the Reforms Committee Attaullah, the affected people staged protest on Tuesday in front of the Hangu Press Club. 

Speaking on the occasion, Attaullah, Sawab Khan, Aziz Khan and Haji Bismillah Khan said the presence of organisations including Hizbullah and Mehdi Militia besides other outfits in upper Kurram was an attack on the sovereignty of the country. 

Earlier, elders of one of the sects had accused militants of attacking the Balishkhel village and harming the villagers.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

8 militants, soldier killed in Mohmand clash

8 militants, soldier killed in Mohmand clash

Dawn Report | From the Newspaper

Four persons were killed and 19 others received injuries in sporadic clashes between rival factions in different parts of Kurram Agency on Monday.
According to unconfirmed reports nine more bodies were found in the area between Sadda and Balishkhel. However, officials and residents of Sadda town denied the reports.
Sources said that security forces were targeting positions of the rival factions with artillery and tanks in Balishkhel and Sadda to dislodge armed men, but they had not been fully succeeded. Sadda town was still under curfew.
The rival groups were attacking each other positions with rockets, mortars and heavy guns. Several houses were also damaged in Balishkhel, Sadda, Sangina and Khar villages. Locals have evacuated women and children from the embattled areas.
They said that three children were injured when rockets fired from Tangi area hit houses in Shalozan near Parachinar. The wounded children were shifted to the agency headquarters hospital in Parachinar.
Officials said that political administration formed a joint jirga, which started talks with the rival groups to broker ceasefire between the residents of Sadda and Balishkhel.
A spokesman for Tanzeem Majlis-i-Ulema, Kurram Agency Allama Mohammad Ibrahim Muhammadi urged the government to take decisive action against militants in the area.
He said that militants resorted to violence after corps commander hinted at launching a military operation in the area. He said that militants attacked Balishkhel after the announcement of launching military operation.
He said that trouble-makers had made people in lower and central Kurram hostages. He alleged that militants had entered Kurram from other tribal agencies and local administration failed to block their entry.

Tribal violence: Kurram Agency clashes leave five dead

Toll from two days of skirmishes rises to 12. PHOTO: AFP
At least five people including two children were killed in the ongoing clashes between two tribes in the Lower Kurram Agency late on Sunday.
According to sources, the clashes took place in the Khar Killay area of the Lower Kurram Agency near Sadda town.
"Armed men attacked the village leaving five people dead, including two children," a local told The Express Tribune.
A day earlier at least eight people were killed and 12 others were injured in similar skirmishes in the agency. Sources said these clashes, started with disputes over installation of electricity pylons, are now spreading to other parts of the restive agency. The toll in the last two days has risen to at least 12 dead.
Violence erupted in the wake of reports that the army was mulling an offensive in the agency, said Corps Commander Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik, hinting at a military operation in his interaction with a tribal jirga in Parachinar on May 19.
Malik said the authorities were planning a strategy to clear the area of militants and to make the Thall-Parachinar Road safer for travelling. The road was opened following an agreement between the warring tribes earlier this year in February. However, it collapsed weeks later after militants kidnapped around two dozen tribesmen in the Baggan area of Lower Kurram on March 26.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.

Curfew in Kurram Agency

Pakistan Observer
Curfew in Kurram Agency
Tariq Saeed

Peshawar—Indefinite curfew was clamped Monday in Kurram Agency following the sectarian uprisings in Sadda resulted in killing of as many as 16 people and serious injuries to over three dozens others. 

On the other hand a fresh missile hit by the American drones in North Waziristan Agency killed up to seven more people Monday afternoon. The bloody clashes between the two villages of Sadda Kurram Agency namely Balish Khel and Khuwaar Kalay belonging to rival sects, started clashing some four days back. 

More than twenty five people from both sides were injured and ten sustained wounds in the violent clashes between the two religious sects. 

The officials in the political administration said the two sides taking positions against each other were using highly sophisticate weapons including mortar guns. High tension gripped the Sadda City. 

Sources said those killed in clashes included equal number of people from Sunni and Shia sects. 20 members of the Sunni community and six Shiites were so for wounded. The injured were rushed to various hospitals of the Kurram agency. 

The warring Sunni clans include Khuwaar Kalay, Sadda Bazaar and Mirukach while Balish Khel Sangeena and Ibrahimzai's were fighting from Shiite community. A political administration official said since both the groups were using sophisticated weapons including mortar guns and rocket launchers, number of shells fell on the houses of civilian population killing around a dozen people. 

Following failure on part of the Kurram militia and the political administration of Kurram to effect ceasefire between the warring groups, the security forces Monday imposed curfew in Sadda and took control of the City to avoid further bloodshed. The army and FC have setup their posts at various points in the city and patrolling in the city to timely thwart any untoward incident. Besides, as the reports say, a tribal Jirga is also striving to effect truce between the rival sects with the Jirga elders expressing optimism to succeed in their efforts. 

In the meanwhile, yet another drone attack in North Waziristan Agency on Monday left at least seven people dead and many others wounded. 

Local sources say, the CIA operated pilot less spying planes or the drones targeted a vehicle in Michchi Khel area some ten kilometers west of Tehsil Mir Ali of NWA around 4.50 in the evening killing as many as four people o board the coach. 

"The predator planes fired two missiles on the vehicle which was destroyed completely on main Mir Ali highway and at least four people were killed in the fresh missiles hit by the American planes on the spot while three more succumbed to their injuries later on". A source told Pakistan observer adding there were no reports if those killed were the militants though some officials say the target of the missiles hit were the alleged terrorists