While the Pakistan military had stated, that it hoped the operation in Kurram Agency would not be prolonged and would end within a limited period of time, it appears this is not to be the case. The fighting in the area continues relentlessly with people continuing to flee to camps or to relatives. One reason for the operation is said to be, according to some analysts, that it is needed before one can take place in North Waziristan. In any case, the situation of those still trapped in areas of fighting appears to be grim.
The sorry fact is that the unrest in Kurram has continued now for several years. For starters, the main road linking it with the rest of the country, via Thall in Hangu district, was blocked for three years by the Taliban and people of Parachinar would have to use a much longer route via Afghanistan for travel to even Peshawar. Some local tribes say that they have been targeted because of the fact that they are Shia, and in fact the Agency has unfortunately seen sectarian violence for a number of years now. Of course, for decades, both Shia and Sunni tribes continued to co-exist peacefully for years and the suggestion that the violence happened when outsiders came in does hold some water.
The current conflict seems to have been caused by the movement into the Agency of Taliban from other parts of Fata and in the process further exacerbating the situation. Many reports of abductions and kidnapping for ransom have surfaced, and there are also unconfirmed reports of the Haqqani network shifting there from North Waziristan. In this background, the kidnapping of 10 truck drivers and cleaners over the weekend, reinforces the perception that the writ of the state runs very thin in Kurram. That this is happening even as a military operation is conducted in central Kurram to flush out militants suggests that a lot more will have to be done by the state before it is able to establish its authority through the agency. A definite plan of action is now needed both to bring about peace in the troubled region and to make provisions for people who have been forced out of their homes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2011.
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