Tuesday, April 12, 2011

High fares ground flights to Kurram

High fares ground flights to Kurram

By Zulfiqar Ali | From the Newspaper

PESHAWAR, April 10: The political administration of Kurram Agency has ordered a private aviation company to stop its chartered aircraft service to Parachinar following complaints by local people that the company charges exorbitant fares from them.

The elders of the volatile area complained that the Lahore-based Hybrid Aviation charged Rs18,000 to Rs20,000 one-way fare from each passenger between Peshawar and Parachinar, the administrative headquarters of Kurram Agency.
An official said that after verification of the complaints, the authorities directed the management of the company in Parachinar on Saturday to stop flight operations. He said that the company agents were charging excessive fares, which angered local people.
The people have stopped travelling by road after militants attacked four passenger coaches on Thall-Parachinar Highway in Baggun, lower Kurram on March 26. Three persons were killed and two others wounded in the broad daylight attack while 35 passengers were kidnapped.
The elders of the area have decided that local people would not use Thall-Parachinar Road unless government released 35 kidnapped persons from their captors and made foolproof security arrangements to prevent such attacks in the future.
Local people have been virtually stranded after the attacks. They can neither take detour via Kabul owing to blockade of border with Afghanistan nor travel through main road due to insecurity. The prevailing situation has forced them to meet tough 'demands' of the aviation company's agents.
The chartered flight service between Peshawar and Parachinar was started in 2009 owing to blockade of the main road and insecurity in the area. Initially government had authorised four aviation companies to operate chartered flights for the besieged valley.
The road was opened in February this year after implementation of a peace agreement and two aviation companies stopped flights while Peshawar Flying Club, a semi-government organisation, and Hybrid Aviation, a private company, continued the service.
An official of Civil Aviation Authority told this correspondent that the companies, except Flying Club, didn't have prescribed booking offices and had hired mobile local agents to facilitate passengers. The Flying Club is using its own facility for loading and off loading of passengers while other companies use the CAA premises at Peshawar International Airport.
"The CAA will take action if passengers lodge complaint regarding fare, flight safety and other facilities. But we have yet to receive any complaint," the official said. The Flying Club, which operates four-seat light aircraft, charges Rs8,500 one-way fare per passenger. The travel agents of Hybrid Aviation receive minimum Rs18,000 one-way fare from each passenger.
Sources said that a passenger in Parachinar, who was going to Middle East, had paid Rs40,000 to get a seat on the flight to Peshawar to catch his connecting flight.
Hybrid Aviation manager flights Mohsin Syed, when contacted, said that the company sold airtime and charged Rs90,000 per hour. He said that the company had fixed Rs9,700 fare per passenger. He neither denied nor confirmed reports about high fares being charged by the company's booking agents.
If passengers made booking in advance then they would get ticket on the prescribed rate, he said, adding media should investigate why other aviation companies did not operate flights for Parachinar.
The people of Kurram tribal region have been facing with numerous problems for the last couple of years owing to sectarian clashes and insecurity on Thall-Parachinar Road. Increase in prices of daily use items owing to blocked of road has also added to their miseries and financial woes. The recent attacks on passenger coaches on Thall-Parachinar Road have also put a question mark on the sustainability of the peace agreement.

Three killed, 13 injured in Kurram Agency blast

 Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PARACHINAR: Three persons were killed and 13 others sustained injuries when a passenger van hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kannaki village in upper part of Kurram Agency early Monday, official and tribal sources said. 

The sources said that the van was carrying passengers to Parachinar from Kannaki when it hit an IED planted by the militants. The sources said three persons, including the driver of the vehicle Mohammad Hassan, Noor Wali and Maulana Rehmat Ali, were killed on the spot. Thirteen other passengers, including women and children, sustained injuries. Villagers reached the spot and shifted the injured persons to the Agency Headquarters Hospital, Parachinar. 

The injured included Yousaf Ali, Munsib Ali and his wife and two children, Arab Ali, Rehmat Ali, Mir Mohammad, Sharbat Ali, Momin Ali, Tajir Hussain, Nabi Hussain and Gul Wazir. Doctors at the hospital said that two of the injured were in a critical condition. 

Local residents have expressed concern over the increasing incidents of roadside blasts in Kurram Agency. They appealed to the government to deploy security forces on the road to save innocent people from being killed.

25 displaced families say goodbye to Jalozai camp

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
NOWSHERA: Convoy of eight vehicles comprising 25 internally displaced families from Mohmand Agency on Monday said goodbye to Jalozai settlement established for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) who had been uprooted from their native villages and towns because of violence. 

Following the decision of the government, the UNHCR and the relevant line departments, the IDPs were earlier intimated about return to their places of origin as peace was restored there. The returning IDPs were provided free transport by the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) to reach their hometowns and villages. 

On the first day of the return process, two dozens families displaced from Mohmand Agency left for their areas while the repatriation would continue till all the IDPs from Mohmand and Bajaur agencies were sent back to their homes.

The camp officials said all facilities including overall protection to the affected people by the relief organisations and the government would be provided to them in their places of origin.While the government has chalked out programme for the repatriation of the displaced people, the IDPs from Bajaur Agency were not willing to leave Jalozai camp as they had communicated their reservations to the camp officials. They said the government must first compensate them for the losses of their destroyed homes. They said their homes were destroyed in the military action that was carried out in Bajaur Agency to flush out militants.

On the other hand, the camp officials said the returning IDPs could take the tents provided in the camp along with them, as the government would compensate them once surveys were completed and losses properly documented.

Camp in-charge Abdul Akbar said that the government and the relief organisations would provide every facility to the IDPs in their native areas as IDPs status inside the Jalozai camp had been withdrawn. 

Meanwhile, the IDPs from Bajaur Agency would hold a consultative meeting today (Tuesday) at the camp to decide about their return, sources said. The return of IDPs from the humanitarian perspective is a voluntary process as governments around the world normally could not force or coerce vulnerable communities till complete protection is ensured in their places of origin, expert said. 

Statistical data suggested that more than 15,000 families uprooted from Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber agencies are living in Jalozai camp. Besides Jalozai camp, a big portion of displaced people from Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber Agency were still living in host communities and rented houses in Mardan, Swabi, Charsadda, Nowshera and Peshawar districts in particular, sources said. 

Sources said the IDPs living in host communities and rented houses, particularly in Peshawar district where they are concentrated on Kohat Road, Dilazak Road, Tehkal, Tajabad, Bakhsho Pul, Yakkatoot, Inqilab Road, Garhi Atta Muhammad and Badaber, were the most vulnerable communities. 

Most of these families even included unregistered ones as they were displaced later because of violence in upper tehsil of Kurram Agency (Shalozan-Tangi) and were confronted with non-release of food ration or non-registration for World Food Programme free food facility, access to education and healthcare and unemployment, sources said.