Trouble in Parachinar

Govt needs to clarify its stance on the protesters’ demands and take the tribes into confidence before it is too late.

Editorial August 06, 2014

With the attention of the entire country focused on the current political turmoil, it is only when a conflict ripens enough to execute itself with all its wrath that condemnations start pouring in and the state tries to grapple to end it. A sit-in by hundreds of protestors in Parachinar, Kurram Agency, which began on Eid and has continued for over a week now, has so far failed to gain the attention of the government and the mainstream media. The antagonism of the protestors against the political administration and the security agencies is growing. While a tense calm prevails right now, it gives all the indications of breaking out into a catastrophe that has the potential of eventually morphing into a tribal-sectarian war that has so far been caged by a fragile peace agreement.

The protestors’ main demands include the release of some three dozen tribal elders, who have been imprisoned for over seven months under the FCR after failing to develop a consensus on equal representation in the Anjuman-e-Husainia, a body that looks after affairs of the Turi and the Bangash tribes. The other demand is to lift the ban on the imam of the main mosque, Allama Nawaz Irfani, a resident of Gilgit, who has been living in the Kurram Agency for 15 years. The complexity of the situation, however, goes beyond just these two demands. The underlying issues at hand are the lack of trust of the people of the area in the government, the complexities of local politics and the targeted attacks on Shia tribesmen. There have also been reports of the influence that the Haqqanis enjoy in the agency, with the government having also conceded that a ‘third element’ has taken advantage of the conflict in Kurram Agency. Its current apathy might aggravate the situation further. It needs to clarify its stance on the protesters’ demands and take the tribes into confidence before it is too late, with the jirgas of the area having already failed in resolving the issues at hand. This conflict has the potential to have implications throughout the country, which is already finding it hard to curtail the menace of sectarianism.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2014.

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