Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kurram Agency: MQM, PTI express solidarity with tribesmen

Business Recorder

Kurram Agency: MQM, PTI express solidarity with tribesmen

ISLAMABAD  (April 30, 2011) : Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday, expressing solidarity with the protesting tribesmen belonging to restive Kurram Agency, asked the government to take immediate measure to lift the four-year long blockade of Thall-Parachinar Road.

MQM's parliamentary leader in National Assembly, Dr Farooq Sattar and PTI leader Zahid Hussain Kazmi were addressing a large gathering of protesters belonging to Kurram Agency here in front of the Parliament House. The gathering was also addressed by chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on States and Frontier Region, MNA Sajid Hussain Turi.

Sattar extended MQM's full support to the people of Kurram Agency in redressing their problems of lawlessness and the four-year long blockade of the region by militants adding that MQM would also raise the issue in the parliament. He asked the government to take action against the elements that were creating law and order situation in Kurram Agency. He said MQM would also submit adjournment motion in the National Assembly regarding lawlessness in Kurram Agency and the problems being faced by the tribesmen due to the blockade of Thall-Parachinar Road.

He criticised the government for not taking measures to rescue over 0.5 million residents from the trenches created by militants who were brutally killing innocent tribesmen. Sattar criticised PTI Chief Imran Khan for not raising voice for the people of Parachinar, who he said were subjected to brutalities of the militants. "We all are opposing and condemning the US drone attacks. But it is deplorable to neglect the 0.5 million population who are at the mercy of the extremist elements," he said.

The MQM leader also expressed solidarity with the people of Parachinar on behalf of the party's Quaid Altaf Hussain, adding that his party would stand side by side with the residents of the Kurram Agency. "We have to remove differences and those elements promoting such rifts among the society if we want to create a real Pakistan in accordance with the dreams of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah," he added.

Sattar was of the view that if the government fails to redress the genuine issues of the people there would soon be a revolution. The gathering was later joined by PTI leader Zahid Hussain Kazmi, who also extended his party's support to the people of Kurram Agency. He demanded of the government to undertake immediate measures to restore peace in the restive region.

Kazmi criticised media for keeping itself mum over the matter of Kurram Agency and for not highlighting the plight of the local tribesmen. He was of the view that the government does not have right to govern if it is not able to establish its writ and wipe out militants who were plying with the lives of innocent people.

The rally was also addressed by vice President Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Mirza Hassan Jehadi, Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen leader Allama Fakhar Abbas Rizvi and PPP's former candidate from Kurram Agency Dr Syed Riaz Hussain Shah.

Copyright Business Recorder, 201

Protesters castigate authorities for their silence

Mumtaz Alvi
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hundreds of residents of under-siege Parachinar here on Friday castigated president, prime minister and political parties for what they called their criminal silence over the 0.5 million population's plight at the hands of militants.

They called upon the rulers to either honour their commitments made on several occasions with the Jirga delegates and MNAs belonging to Fata or step down in case they could not make secure the only road link between Kurram Agency and rest of Pakistan.

The protesters, mostly youth, took out a rally and staged a sit-in near the Parliament House. All political parties, barring Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf completely ignored the event.

In their fiery speeches, speakers regretted that PPP, PML-N and so-called NGOs were insensitive to the long-continuing human rights violations in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency. The rally was organised by the Youth of Parachinar, which has encamped outside the Press Club here since last week to press the government for re-establishment of its writ there.

MQM Parliamentary Leader in the National Assembly Dr. Farooq Sattar expressed solidarity with the protestors and promised to demand lifting of the siege and reopening of the Thal-Parachinar Road on the floor of the lower house. He added MQM leader Altaf Hussain would address the affected of Parachinar if they organised such a programme in the coming days.

They noted Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had recently staged a dharna in Peshawar in a bid to halt drone attacks. They said they were also against any kind of outside interference in Pakistan's internal matters.

But they decried Imran never issued even a statement against the blockade of Parachinar and in support of their struggle against the militants' barbarism. However, PTI central spokesman of Imran, Zahid Hussain Kazmi on behalf of the party chairman, rushed to the venue and joined the protest. Later, he delivered a brief speech, condemning the siege of the region.

The PTI spokesman expressed solidarity with the protesters and criticised the PPP-led government for its indifference to the seething human misery in Parachinar.

Maulana Asghar Askari cautioned that if the status quo persisted, next time they could stage a sit-in inside the Parliament premises. He noted the president, prime minister and even interior minister had promised to drive Taliban out of the region and secure the road from them but they failed to honour their pledges.

Amid chants of shame, shame and down with Zardari government, he said they were aware as to which hidden forces were behind the diabolical activities of Taliban. "There is uniform behind the rampant terrorism," the participants shouted in response to his statement.

He recalled that Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had very recently rightly said that Pakistan army was the best in the world. "We may dare to ask our army chief why then the Thal-Parachinar Road is not being made secure," he remarked.

The religious scholar complained that the electronic media had not been projecting the crisis, as it should have had been and noted the media often looked for noted political figures for coverage instead of highlighting human misery.

The MNA from Parachinar Sajid Hussain Turi who is also chairman of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on the States and Frontier Regions, in his speech described Parachinar as Pakistani Gaza and said their peaceful agitation would continue unless the road was cleared of militants.

He said due to the road blockade, broiler chicken was being sold in Parachinar at Rs450-500 per kilo, price spiral of the day-to-day commodities such as flour, ghee was unaffordable for the majority.

Similarly, he continued, both ordinary and life-saving drugs were also no more available and in some cases, medicines meant for animals were given to patients.

"Entire convoys of vehicles are taken away along with passengers by the militants: either killed with brutality; their bodies are mutilated and returned only after ransom is paid. These terrorists have martyred over 2000 innocent men, women and even children since 2007," he lamented.

He asserted their struggle would continue until 35 persons abducted a few days back were recovered, the army troops moved in to clear the road; violators of the Murree Agreement punished and at the earliest PIA service resumed from Peshawar to Parachinar.

Misleading information — III —Farhat Taj

ANALYSIS: Misleading information — III —Farhat Taj
Since 9/11 and the US attacks on terrorist positions in Afghanistan, the authority of the political agent has been replaced by the Pakistan Army officers in a de facto manner. The officers are neither capable of nor legally authorised to deal with tribal or sectarian disputes

This is the last part of my comments on Mr Ejaz Haider's article 'Responding to Farhat Taj — II' published in an English daily on April 11, 2011.

Mr Haider recommends Patrick Porter's Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes so that I understand how the Taliban overpowered FATA. The problem is that a great deal of international research and journalistic literature authored on FATA in the context of the war on terror is misleading, at times marred with factual mistakes and tarnished with serious ethical and methodological mistakes. Readers of Daily Times are aware that I have been challenging some of the literature on this forum. My published research papers as well as my forthcoming book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban, question the work of some of the most famous FATA 'experts' around the world. The literature is based on information and assumptions that, at the very best, have only insignificant presence in FATA's ground reality. By producing such blighted knowledge about FATA, the famous FATA experts in the US and Europe have defiled the West's own tradition of scholarship.

I have not read Porter's book and so I am in no position to comment on it. But I will never judge the situation in FATA on the criteria set in this or any other book; I will do things the other way round. Mr Haider's own understanding that, due to internal socio-political changes, the traditional tribal structure led by the tribal leader has been battered leading to the rise of indigenous religious power embodied by the Taliban, is baseless. The tribal leaders have not been outdated through internal changes in society. They have been out-manoeuvred and even killed by the security establishment that engineered, through terrorism and blackmail, the Taliban takeover of tribal society in pursuit of strategic goals.

Kurram is a complicated story, quite different from the rest of FATA. There are also long standing tribal disputes over land, forests and water between Sunni and Shia tribes. Some of the disputes have been pending since colonial times. Some of the disputes are dormant and some have been causing occasional tribal clashes. There are also controversial sectarian disputes. But never before have any tribal clashes in Kurram's history led to so much violence and mass scale human displacement such as those in the deadly cycle of sectarian clashes since 2007.

Traditionally, there have been two authorities that prevented all previous tribal clashes from causing large-scale violence: the jirga led by tribal leaders and the political agent. Since 9/11 and the US attacks on terrorist positions in Afghanistan, the authority of the political agent has been replaced by the Pakistan Army officers in a de facto manner. The officers are neither capable of nor legally authorised to deal with tribal or sectarian disputes. Most of the non-local tribal leaders, who used to play a constructive role in managing disputes in Kurram, have been target killed, like Khandan Mehsud of South Waziristan. The remaining tribal leaders have limited their activities due to security concerns or they toe the establishment's line and are hence irrelevant for the well being of the tribal people. Within Kurram, moderate Shia and Sunni tribal leaders are hostage to armed gangs and occasionally get target killed — the latest example is that of Iqbal Hussain, an important moderate Sunni tribal leader from Parachinar as well as historian of Kurram, who was target killed in January 2011.

With the authority of the tribal leaders removed and the state reluctant to impose its writ, the Shia and Sunni militant groups have been given a free hand to commit as many atrocities as they please. No one in Kurram believes that the state does not have the capacity to rein in the militant groups.

Almost all Sunnis from Parachinar have been displaced by the Shia militant groups. Why did the army stationed in the area not provide security to the Sunni residents of the city by confronting the Shia attackers with full might? The fact that some Sunnis were linked with the Taliban is no justification for the army to remain silent spectators over the carnage and displacement of the Sunnis, most of whom were innocent civilians. There are more people linked with the Taliban in Lahore. Would that be a reason for the army to silently allow a violent eviction of an entire section of the population from the city?

Instead of harshly dealing with the Sunnis linked with the Taliban, the local state agents have been publicly giving them VIP treatment. For example, during the sectarian clashes in 2007, a military helicopter airlifted the injured Eid Nazar Mangal, leader of the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba in Kurram to a hospital. No other injured Shia or Sunni was given that facility on the occasion. All the government could do for the assaulted innocent Sunnis was to 'facilitate' their forced eviction by providing them transport that dumped them just outside the Shia-dominated area to lick their wounds.

Why did Colonel Tauseef even hold the jirga in which he invited a controversial anti-Shia personality from Kohat? He does not have any legal authority to do so. His move achieved nothing for peace in Kurram but contributed towards a bad tribal perception about his institution. The Sunni tribal leaders now say that Colonel Tauseef's plan to repatriate the Sunnis was the army's plan to trap the Parachinar Shias in violence. Without having appropriate security arrangements in place to protect the repatriated Sunnis from aggression by Shia militant gangs, the returned IDPs would be slaughtered by the Shia armed groups. This would provide a pretext to the military to conduct a fake military operation in the name of elimination of the Shia groups, but would actually result in the carnage of innocent Shia families.

The text of the Murree Agreement clearly identifies three parties to the crisis in Kurram — the local Shia, Sunni populations and the government of Pakistan — and, depending on the case, any of the three will be responsible for any violation of the agreement. It is only the government of Pakistan that has failed to fulfill its responsibility under the agreement. Both Shias and Sunnis from Kurram hold the government responsible for non-implementation of the agreement. Rather than implementing the Murree Agreement, the government is holding media circuses, like the jirga in March 2011 as referred to by Mr Ejaz. The jirga was boycotted by an important stakeholder of the Kuram crisis, the Sunni IDPs from Parachinar. There has been more violence in the area against innocent Shias and Sunnis since that jirga.

Due to space constraints, I will not be able to discuss more about Kurram, but I wish to inform that, together with another author, I am writing a report about Kurram, which will elaborate most of the issues touched upon by Mr Ejaz. Therefore, I would request the readers to wait for the report.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

Forces release LI founder Mufti Munir Shakir

Said Nazir Afridi
Saturday, April 30, 2011
BARA: Security forces released the founder of banned militant organisation Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) Mufti Munir Shakir in Sadda in Kurram Agency on Friday and ordered him to leave the area within three days, official sources said. The sources said security forces arrested him while checking vehicles at a checkpost in lower Kurram Agency on March 27, 2011. Talking to this scribe, Munir Shakir said neither was he involved in anti-state activities nor charged in any case. He termed his expulsion from Kurram Agency as violation of basic human rights. Munir Shakir and his rival Pir Saif-ur-Rehman were expelled by the political administration from Bara in Khyber Agency in the first quarter of 2006 for inciting people against each other through their illegal FM radio stations. Following his expulsion, Mangal Bagh organised the Lashkar-e-Islam and started to implement its manifesto forcefully in major parts of Khyber Agency. Mufti Shakir was arrested by security agencies at Karachi airport when he was ready to leave Pakistan in May 2006. He was released on August 20, 2007. He tried to come back to Bara and lead the LI but Mangal Bagh opposed his return as he considered him a threat to his power. The sources said that in early 2008 Mufti Shakir shifted to his hometown Karboogha in Hangu district and remained there till his capture by security forces.