Averting a doomsday scenario

Published: October 27, 2010
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Taliban led by Mullah Toofan are allegedly planning coordinated attacks on the Shia community in Kurram. PHOTO: AFP

Taliban led by Mullah Toofan are allegedly planning coordinated attacks on the Shia community in Kurram. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: All key players in Pakistan’s tribal regions are maneuvering to avert what can be the bloodiest-ever sectarian conflict between the Taliban-supported Sunnis and the ‘besieged’ Shia community in Kurram Agency, officials and locals said.

The North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, top military officials and religious leaders from across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are trying hard to convince Taliban commanders from neighbouring Orakzai Agency to reconcile with the Shias in Parachinar, the main town in Kurram Agency.

Thousands of Orakzai-based Taliban, led by Maulana Noor Jamal, or Mullah Toofan, are allegedly planning coordinated attacks on the Shia community in Kurram to avenge the eviction of over 1,000 Sunni families by them two years ago.

Kurram is the only Shia-dominated tribal area where the Taliban are now holding sway. It is a strategically important region because it borders Afghanistan and some important tribal regions.

Residents from Parachinar told The Express Tribune that the Shia community has requested Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani, who supervises the Haqqani network operations in North Waziristan, to mediate between them and Mullah Toofan’s commanders.

Toofan is a nominee of Hakimullah Mehsud, the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander, for Orakzai and is notorious for his brutalities against those who oppose his rule in northern parts of the agency.

The Pakistan military has time and again claimed to have cleared the agency of militants but local residents contradict this claim. The entire Upper Orakzai is controlled by Mullah Toofan and Commander Tariq Afridi, a militant leader who once controlled the semi-tribal Dara Adamkhel area before his men were chased out by the military.

The pair have their base-camp in a seminary in the Arghanja area of Dabori sub-district. “It is a facility similar to the one Maulana Fazlullah (Mullah Radio) had in Swat. It is their nerve centre,” a local source told The Express Tribune.

“It is from the Taliban network in Orakzai that the most serious threat to the Shias in Kurram emanates from,” said a Peshawar-based official.

This was the reason the Shias from Kurram sought mediation from the Haqqanis, added a former parliamentarian from Kohat who has good terms with the Taliban. “They went there and asked Haqqani to get involved,” the former lawmaker explained, contradicting earlier media reports.

Last week, some leading newspapers reported that the Haqqani network wanted to seize control of the region to mount operations inside Afghanistan’s eastern provinces.

But the lawmaker denied these reports. He was part of a delegation the Pakistani military sent last week to convince the Shias to let the ousted Sunnis families return home in Parachinar.

“The Shia community approached Haqqani with Rs200 million cash and 2,000 sheep,” the former lawmaker revealed, referring to a Pakhtun tradition of offering sheep to seek reconciliation, known as ‘nanavatey’.

Another Peshawar-based official also confirmed that Shia community leaders from Kurram went to North Waziristan to seek support from the Haqqanis but it was to protect them against cross-border attacks from international forces based in Afghanistan.

Last month five people, among them three paramilitary troops, were killed in attacks by Nato helicopter gunships in Kurram.

The official said that before meeting Haqqani, a Shia delegation also visited Afghanistan to meet Nato officials but could not get an assurance that their region would not be attacked again.

“That’s why they sought the Haqqanis’ help…they want the Taliban to stand by them in case of intrusions into their area by Nato troops,” he explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Zain
    Oct 28, 2010 - 12:43PM

    The Politicians and the Army knows this will happen, and yet they are only commenting on it and letting a minority defend themselves. Very shameful…..why don’t they just rob the country….and then run away and let the Taliban take over…..I mean might as well….COWARDSRecommend

  • Talha
    Oct 28, 2010 - 1:31PM

    Why the hell aren’t these agencies under the control of the government and why are these militants allowed to operate in this manner.

    “The Shia community approached Haqqani
    with Rs200 million cash and 2,000
    sheep,”

    You got to be joking, what the hell is going on in this country. Where are the security agencies and local government or are our ‘strategic assets’ worth more than our country and its people especially minorities.Recommend

  • MAD
    Oct 28, 2010 - 1:43PM

    What goes around come around. they kicked 200 families out. of course they would naturally want revenge. where do you think the affected families (particularly the youth) went. they joined the Taliban. Recommend

  • Zulfikar Ahmad
    Oct 28, 2010 - 3:55PM

    Hats off Zia Khan my friend, very good, keep rocking…!Recommend

  • Hassan
    Oct 28, 2010 - 7:58PM

    One should bear in mind that conflict and gun battle in Kurram Agency is not in favour of any one. One of my friend commented above that they ousted Sunni families and it is a natural reaction, then let me make some facts clear to you that same was the fate of Shia families before expulsion of Sunni families because at that time they had the support of all jihadi and Pro-Taliban elements in the region. They have to reach parachinar from Afghanistan so see how much they are also suffering.
    The point im making here is not that Shia’s or Sunnis should retaliate each other in same force and manner but they should strive for harmony not by giving money and chattels to Haqqani group but by way of patience and tolerance. Government should work for the security of both sects, without discrimination.Recommend

  • Postmodernist
    Oct 28, 2010 - 9:31PM

    Kurram is strategically the most important tribal agency. Thanks to the brave shia tribesmen Taliban barbarians have not been able to take control of Kurram so far. That is why shia areas are under the siege from three sides by talibans and paksitani military. Pakistani military establishment after receiving heat from US for its lack of action in N. Waziristan now wants safe passage through Kurram. It is not the shia tribesmen who approached Haqqani group, it was the intelligence agencies of pakistan who are trying to mediate some settlement so that when fake N.Waziristan operation starts they can relocate Talibans to Kurram and onwards to Afghanistan. Recommend

  • mehsud
    Oct 29, 2010 - 12:10AM

    Subduing Shia in the region which is strategically important is in the interest of both the Pakistani military and the Taliban fighters, gathered under the umbrella of TTP in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Shia in Iraq sided the foreigners in order to get into the corridors of power and also the Northern alliance in Afghanistan fought against the Taliban along with the Nato forces and admitted subjugation to the foreigners in their mother country.

    So Pakistan want to handover control of the area to the people who were patriotic in true sense and also not addicted to subjugate before the foreign power at any cost. The required qualities could only be meted out in the factions of Taliban who will never sold the motherland.

    In Parachinar Iran intelligence agencies and Hisbullah gurrillas have been intruding as Shia was mainly backed by the Iranian Intelligence agencies during their fight with the Sunni-Mengal and Taliban fighters in the region and they were supplying sophisticated weapons to the Shia sect among which ‘Snipper shooting gun’ was the example which was taken into custody by Taliban when they captured some of their hideouts during clashes.

    Now the Taliban were using the Snipper guns against their fight with the Pakistani army in South Waziristan Agency and the weapon proved deadliest as many soldiers fell prey to the latest weapon.

    So to conclude, control over the said region is necessary and in the interest of Pakistan in long run as presence of such tribe on the border would made it easy for the foreigners to intrude without fear.Recommend

  • noise
    Oct 29, 2010 - 8:19PM

    Haqqani is a pure ISI asset. This smacks of our country’s two faced approach to Afghanistan and its own citizens. If the government were truly serious about rolling back the Taliban it would have sided with the Turis and other Shia tribes but instead it stands aside while the Shia pasthuns face the Taliban alone and have to wage their own war against the Taliban and it’s sympathizers, standing aside and watching the siege of Parachinar like a vulture, waiting for them to eventually cave in. The government wants the Taliban to gain control of Kurram. It winks at the Taliban. It wants the hands of the Taliban to be strengthened. It still thinks it can gain some control of Afghanistan through the Taliban even when its own country is in tatters. I wonder at the minds of our rulers especially the people running the army and the agencies. Its like they have their heads in the goddamn clouds and think they are having one big adventure while they run this country into ever more turbulent waters, deeper and deeper into strife and poverty. And they then wonder why Afghanistan has always hated us and prefers India to us.Recommend

  • zarin
    Oct 29, 2010 - 10:19PM

    This story of 200 million rupees and 200 sheeps is baseless and against Turis tradition but ISI and MNAs of area are trying to convince Turis to provide passage to taliban. Stratigically Kurram is the nearest point to reach Kabul and if succeeded Taliban can easily disturb peace from Paktia to Kabul.
    There are palyers and Mr. Taha must know that security forces are just playing hide & seek game. They also play double game. The news of evicted families from Parachinar are the families implated there by bigited Zia regime. Turis dismentle only a base og lashkar-e-jhangvi and taliban in the area.Recommend

  • faraz
    Oct 30, 2010 - 12:04AM

    We are a nation of contradictions and hypocirsy; now isnt this against our “Qaumi Ghairat”… now where is Imran Khan and Munawar Hassan?Recommend

  • noise
    Nov 1, 2010 - 8:52PM

    @Mehsud
    And the Waziristani Mehsuds dont allow foreigners to intrude? Or are the Arab, Chechen, Uzbek fanatics not foreigners? The other tribes cant be considered more patriotic than the turis, esp while the turis fight the taliban. The Turis have never taken up arms against the state en masse. They have never waged war against Pakistan like the Mehsud traitors. Be fair in your judgment.

    Or are you one of those who hides his vicious bigotry behind a veneer of education and civility?

    The Taliban have done more damage to Pakistan than the Turis could ever do. The Bangash and Turi form the majority in Kurram and by democratic right have more say there. They chose Iranian Islamic model just like the the Sunni Pashtuns fell into the arms of the regressive Saudi Wahabis. History has show which was a constructive ideology and which was the destructive one. It was the Turis that were attacked first by the Zai regime’s proxies. If the Pakistan army were willing to treat them like fellow citizens all of this bloodshed throughout the country would never have happened.

    The fruit of Pakistan’s adventurism in Afghanistan has been tasted yet still you people keep believing in a flawed Afghan strategy. What benefit have the Taliban given to Afghanistan or Pakistan? What benefit has Hikmatyar given to Pakistan? Are we richer because of them, are we more secure because of them? No. We are poorer than we have ever been before, we are weaker than we have ever been before.

    Pakistan should have sided with Iran. It was the west which gleefully used us against Iran and we are weaker because of it. The west is turning us into Iraq#2Recommend

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