Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Parachinar hit badly by Taliban, sectarianism

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa MPA from Hangu, Ateequr Rehman says the Tall-Parachinar Road, which is the main route linking the province to Parachinar, the Kurram Agency's Headquarters, has been virtually seized by Taliban.

"In addition to the activities of these terrorist elements calling themselves Taliban and 'local Taliban' under the command of one warlord or the other, there are serious clashes going on between two religious sects, fighting with each other for decades for the control of the area and especially this strategic Tall-Parachinar Road," Ateequr Rehman said.

"Because of these acts of terrorism by Taliban and the warlords, traders and farmers have, according to safe estimates, suffered losses amounting to at least Rs70 billion so far," the MPA said.

Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Athar Abbas told The News that in the past the Tall-Parachinar road was completely blocked but because of the operations launched by the Pakistan Army and other law enforcement agencies it has now become possible to travel on this road under the protection of security forces.

"Now convoys, including public transport, private vehicles and the transport vehicles can move up and down this road under the protection of the security forces, which has resolved a major issue to some extent. The local political authorities are also putting in their share to secure this road as they are engaging the two sectarian groups to reach an agreement for peaceful co-existence in the tribal agency. Once that task is accomplished, we hope complete peace will return to Kurram Agency," the DG ISPR said.

But MPA Ateequr Rehman said because of lawlessness, the Taliban and sectarian clashes all the cellular phone companies have been forced to shut down their operations in Kurram Agency and there is no source of communication except the PTCL, which also is ineffective because the exchanges crash too frequently thanks to prolonged power breakdowns.

"Interestingly, while the Pakistani cellular phone companies have been unable to continue their operations in Kurram Agency, the cellular service from Afghanistan is operative in Kurram tribal region and most of the people are using the Afghan cellular phone network connections," the MPA from Hangu said.

He said out of 1.6 to 2 million people in Kurram Agency many have migrated to safer areas outside the agency because of precarious law and order situation.

He said that the security forces had worked hard in the past to clear Kurram Agency from these terrorist elements and also worked to bring the sects together in an attempt to bring about peace. However, he added, these efforts by the law enforcement and security agencies, fail in the long run. The government started an air service from Peshawar to Parachinar but that was never enough. As a result, people started using the ancient route of reaching Khyber Agency through Afghanistan, but that too is not safe because of the Taliban influence in those areas inside Afghanistan. "All these realities have made the living and life of people in Kurram Agency miserable," the lawmaker said.
The Express Tribune

How many more massacres?

Published: September 21, 2011

Pakistani Shiite Muslims shout slogans against the killing of community members in Quetta on September 21, 2011. PHOTO: AFP
The massacre on September 20 of a bus full of Hazara Shia near Quetta is another grotesque reminder of the slow, but steady, erosion of the religious state in Pakistan. It is not only the Quetta Shia who are the permanent target of terrorists. The Turi community — formed through historical migration from Afghanistan to Kurram Agency in the Tribal Areas — tells the same tragic story of Pakistan's abandonment of its afflicted communities. The main road that links the agency's headquarters Parachinar with Peshawar and the rest of the country has been more or less closed since 2007 because of the Taliban and their allied militants in the area. Unfortunately, the government has not able to keep it open for more than a few days, despite a much-heralded agreement earlier this year between the various tribes of Kurram. As for the September 20 massacre, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, whose leader Malik Ishaq was recently released from a jail in Punjab, claimed the attack, which resulted in the cold-blooded execution-style killing of 29 Shia pilgrims on their way to Iran.
Pakistan is struck with amnesia about the Hazaras every time a massacre takes place. The one on the last Eidul Fitr was forgotten; this one will be forgotten too. In the last three years, 230 of them have lost their lives as citizens of Pakistan. When Pakistan was supporting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan starting 1996, it began offering the sacrifice of its citizens to Mullah Umar and his renegade state as proof of its loyalty. And the killings didn't begin in the 1990s but much before, around the time of General Zia's Islamisation when the s0-called jihad against the Soviet Union was in full swing. The state tolerated the killing of the Shia by the Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif, and did nothing when the Taliban regime that it supported in Kabul went after the Hazara in their heartland of Bamyan. In 2001, following America's invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda fighters escaped to Pakistan and found shelter here, thanks in part to a network of sympathisers. When this happened, many of the homegrown sectarian killers found a readymade host in al Qaeda with its virulently anti-Shia ideology. In 2003, when the Shia were massacred during Ashura in Quetta, the local Shia leaders showed pamphlets issued by all major madrassas of Pakistan which had declared their sect as heretical.
The main sectarian organisation called Sipah Sahaba circumvented the ban placed on it by splitting into several smaller parts, and as it did this, the state did nothing. One splinter was the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the other was the Jaish-e-Muhammad. The first has joined al Qaeda as a member of Brigade 313 where Tehreek-i-Taliban and Jundullah are featured together with members of al Qaeda. The Lashkar and Jaish are both products of south Punjab, based in Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan respectively with links to the madrassa network headed by a well-known seminary in Karachi.
Pakistan's turning away from the international community, as symbolised by its pulling out of the IMF programme and its escalating estrangement from America, could well place it in a completely isolationist corner. In fact, if that were to happen, it will only further encourage the forces of obscurantism and extremism, which have already made their significant presence felt across the length and breadth of Pakistani society. In this context, the assassination in Kabul through suicide bombing of the leader of the Tajik community in that country, Burhanuddin Rabbani, also on September 20, could further push Pakistan into this isolationist corner, not least because the rest of the world assumes, rightly or wrongly, that most Taliban attacks inside Afghanistan originate from Pakistan. Those who think that terrorism started in 2001 because Pakistan joined America's war on terror, should know that attacks on Shias have been happening since the 1980s and since that period non-state actors have been involved in them, and that most of these have links to the Taliban and al Qaeda of today. The question to ask is: how many more massacres are we going to see of the Shias before we wake up and decide to purge the monster of sectarianism from within us?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd,  2011


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