Protesting against the expulsion of Markazi Jamia Masjid’s imam and arrest of elders, a large number of tribesmen from Kurram Agency continued their sit-in for the fourth consecutive day in Parachinar.
The protest started after Eid prayers on Monday at Shaheed Park in Parachinar, in support of Allama Muhammad Nawaz, also known as Allama Irfani. However, the movement caught tempo after the political administration prevented journalists from covering the protest and deployed heavy contingents of law enforcement across Kurram’s headquarters. Soon after, women and children joined the protest, which is said to have remained peaceful.
Allama Irfani was expelled some seven months ago under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) for hate speech. Roughly around the same time, some 60 tribal elders were arrested, also under the FCR, for supporting Irfani. Their privileges as elders were also revoked.
Since Monday, protesters have been asking for the reversal of all three decisions. They ask that Irfani should be allowed to remain in the agency. Protesters say even the perks and privileges afforded to the rest of the Turi tribesmen were revoked sometime back and demand these be reinstated.
Arbab Hussain, Asadi, Muhammad Gul Tori and other tribal elders told journalists in Hangu that after the political administration in Kurram prevented them from talking to the media, they decided to come to district. Here, they said, their voices will reach the nation.
The elders said the situation in Kurram took a turn for the worse on July 29 when locals pushed back against the administration’s decisions regarding the imam and his alleged supporters.
According to Arbab, if Political Agent Riaz Mehsud and Assistant Political Agent Maqsood Ali are not suspended and transferred, the protest will continue, where women and children will continue to participate. The elders speaking at Hangu also demanded the reversal of decisions regarding Irfani and the arrested elders.
No official statement has been issued about Allama Muhammad Nawaz’s ouster from Kurram, however, The Express Tribune learnt that the imam had been expelled over hate speech at mosques and imambargahs. In addition, the political administration is said to have expelled members of the Sunni sect on similar grounds.
The political administration is said to be engaged in hectic efforts to resolve this issue peacefully. A jirga between the administration and Turi tribesmen is expected shortly at Parachinar.
Sectarian unrest in Kurram Agency goes as far back as at least the 80s, when Sunni and Shia families were forced to seek shelter in settled areas of K-P. In 2007, this took a more organised turn when entire villages were destroyed in a conflict in which a local Taliban force was also involved. Relative calm followed a peace deal between the two sides in 2011.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.