Thousands of Upper Kurram Agency tribes are besieged and Parachinar has been cut off from the rest of Pakistan. PHOTO: FILE/AFP
Thousands have people have been killed in Kurram Agency in the past five years. Property worth billions of rupees has been destroyed and the education system has gone to dogs.
In 2007, when Taliban marched towards Kurram from North and South Waziristan, the tribal elders wrote a letter and faxed it to the president, the prime minister and security officers. In the letter they expressed their concern about the activities and demanded the government to take action against them and stop them from entering Kurram.
But in a strange twist, the photocopy of that letter reached the Taliban' commander the next day, who sent Rs500 to each Shia-Sunni tribal leader, to buy shrouds for their coffins.
And so the Taliban erected check posts, opened training centres and started living in Lower and Central Kurram Agency. They were gearing to take Parachinar.
The elders approached the political administration with this fear on November 15, 2007, but were told that everything was under control. The very next day, after the Friday prayers, the Taliban attacked with hand grenades and rockets, killing many people of Turi-Bangash tribes.
The Thal-Parachinar Road was blocked, and continued to remain so for five years. Thousands of Upper Kurram Agency tribes are besieged and Parachinar has been cut off from the rest of Pakistan. The telephone lines seldom work, there are frequent power outages, development programs and supply of goods has stopped. The people here have been forced to purchase daily-use items imported from Afghanistan at a premium. People die for want of basic life-saving drugs.
But the little coverage that the region gets in the media is focused on sectarian disturbances, which cannot be further from the truth. The Shia and Sunni tribes in Parachinar are not at war. They have a common enemy, the Taliban.
A video shows the Taliban looting goods from trucks and coaches of Turi-Bangash tribes in the presence of Frontier Corps (FC) personnel. A body is lying on the ground while the FC personnel stand there doing nothing.
The Taliban have attacked convoys headed for Lower Kurram many times. Every time their target was to hit the Turi-Bangash tribes. The FC personnel or their conveyances were not harmed.
The road is re-opened
On February 3, 2011, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that they had reached a peace agreement in Kurram and that Thal-Parachinar Road will be opened by February 5. On February 8, members of Grand Tribal Jirga came to Parachinar by road. The road had been opened.
The tribes could not believe that they had been set from free. However, some reports in local and foreign media said that the road had been opened to facilitate the Haqqani Network to go to and come from Afghanistan (Kurram Agency has borders with three provinces of Afghanistan, Paktia, Nangrar and Khost).
Other reports said that the Taliban had some personal stakes in the deal and had just agreed to maintain peace for a month to test the waters. But the tribes insisted that they will not allow Taliban and terrorists to use the road.
A month later, the peace ended. Two children were kidnapped from Lower Kurram. Then people of Turi-Bangash tribes, travelling from Peshawar to Parachinar, were kidnapped along with drivers and coaches. The drivers were warned not to carry people belong from Turi-Bangash tribe.
On March 13, armed terrorists attacked a coach and killed 10 passengers, while three attackers were also killed when police retaliated. The attackers were identified to be from Mangal Tribe in Kurram, with one of them a former FC troop. The government did nothing.
Then on March 25, Taliban attached three coaches, killed three passengers and kidnapped 45 people from Turi-Bangash tribes. The kidnapped included women and children. The Taliban said they were retaliating against being cheated.
The government and Grand Tribal Jirga went to the negotiation table with the Taliban, who demanded a huge some of money and put forth a set of demands.
During negotiations, on April 21, the Taliban slaughtered and burned eight of the kidnapped passengers and sent the bodies to the tribes. They also released a video showing a kidnapped passenger being slaughtered and put on fire.
The tribal elders reiterated that they will not allow their land to be used by terrorists or other countries. This resulted in a retaliation from the Taliban and Haqqani Network. They have been attacking Sahlozan with missiles and mortars regularly.
The Taliban also attached Turi-Bangash tribe in Balash Khel village, killing four and injuring seven tribesmen. The tribes retaliated, killing 19 Taliban along with two of their commanders. Then a strange thing happened. The security forces reached Khar Kali and Balash Khel villages and bombarded the fortifications of Turi-Bangash tribes and picked up the bodies of the slain Taliban.
The tribes protested by holding a shutter-down strike in the entire city.
The elders say that this latest incident confirms that the Taliban are being supported by security forces, who are playing a double game and have warned the government of blocking their supply routes if they do not stop supporting the terrorists.
The writer is a journalist and works with Chinar News Agency
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2011.