In an ambush attack on a private convoy of vehicles in Kurram agency, 18 people have been killed. The convoy was under military escort, headed to Peshawar from Parachinar on the route that had previously been declared cleared of militants by the military.
A suspected sectarian attack on a civilian convoy in a troubled tribal area of Pakistan has left 16 dead.
Several other people were wounded in the ambush in the north west, where the army has carried out operations against Islamist militants.
The convoy, which was being escorted by security forces, was attacked in Char Khel village in the Kurram region.
All those killed were Shia Muslims, according to local officials, who said the death toll may rise.
The convoy was heading from Parachinar, in Kurram, to the main regional city of Peshawar when it was ambushed on Saturday in the predominantly Sunni region.
Earlier on July 11 there was another attack on a bus carrying travelers from Kurram who were on their way to Peshawar via Kabul. Some readers of Pakistani news would probably not even know why these poor travelers had to travel to Peshawar via Kabul. The reason is that the Taliban of Kurram Agency have for the last 3 years blockaded the main road from Parachinar to Peshawar and the rest of the world. Isn’t it amazing that such a Gaza-like situation exists in Pakistan and yet Pakistan’s media does not care to discuss this issue in any detail.
Recently on July 6 the local commander of the security forces Colonel Tausif Akhtar made the claim to local and international reporters that 80% of Kurram agency has been cleared of militants. See also this article which states that normalcy is returning to Kurram Agency. In fact Colonel Tausif Akhtar even went so far as to say that there were only about 2 dozen militants left in Kurram. The locals interviewed by a journalist from Reuters were slightly more skeptical in their assessment:
Kurram civilians also complain.
“We cannot travel on the road without an escort from the Kurram Militia, because there are many dangers on the road,” said Haji Kamal Hussain, president of the Parachinar Traders’ Welfare Union.
The Kurram Militia is part of paramilitary Frontier Corps force and largely made up of local people.
All this makes the military watchful and even a bit jumpy.
Soldiers conspicuously eavesdropped on the comments of a local columnist as he chose each of his words carefully, an overt display of control usually more subtle in other parts of Pakistan.
“They will not let me say anything,” said Azmat Ali Khan, a local journalist, referring to the nearby soldiers.
In summary, while it is certainly good news that the Thal Parachinar road has been reopened as the military says, there is a long way to go before Kurram agency is safe as evidenced by these two latest attacks. In the meantime, we should not forget that the citizens of Kurram agency are facing a humanitarian crisis a fact largely ignored by the Pakistani media. Here is a local reporter’s account:
Zulfiqar Ali, a resident of the area who works as a reporter in Peshawar, says the deadly incident makes it even less likely that Kurram residents will travel the alternative Afghan route.
Ali was among a delegation of journalists who visited Kurram on a trip sponsored by Pakistan’s military. He says that he witnessed local residents suffering from lack of food and medicine. “People in [the Kurram town of] Sadda looked like they [were] prisoners,” Ali says.
The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said in a recent report that it has become extremely difficult to provide relief to the sick in Kurram. It noted that medical supplies are becoming increasingly scarce and even hospitals have been attacked.
Pakistan’s military sends food and medicines twice a month. However, locals say that is not sufficient for the area’s more than half a million inhabitants.
Some articles on LUBP about Parachinar: