I know many Pakistanis particularly those belonging to Kurram Agency are celebrating the recent peace agreement between the Shia and Sunni factions of Kurram Agency which guarantees safe passage of Shias on the Thall-Parachinar Road lifting almost 4 years blockade of Shias of Prachinar.
According to the agreement, Shias will guarantee safe return of hundreds of Sunnis displaced from Parachinar and Sunnis will reciprocate by ensuring safe return of Shias displaced from their villages.
According to Ahlul Bayt News Agency:
The Parachinar-Peshawar Road reopened on Tuesday for all kinds of traffic after four years. The people chanted slogans in favour of Sunni-Shia unity and built gates at various places including Chapri, Bagan, Alizai, Sadda, Balishkhel, Mali Killay, College Colony and Parachinar Town to greet the passing vehicles.
Elder of tribal jirga Malik Waris Khan Afridi said: “Today is a really happy day for the people of Kurram Agency when their long-awaited demand has been met.”
It is for four years that Shia Muslims in the area are surrounded by Taliban millitants and government fources with out any medical emergency, healthy food and water and primary materials.
The peace accord brought to an end three/four years of sectarian killings in Kurram, which borders Afghanistan. Taliban-backed Sunni militias and other Taliban-linked groups terrorised the Shia population in Kurram from 2007 and at least 5,000 Shias took refuge in Afghanistan.
Sunni militias barred all the main roads in the area for at least two years, forcing Shias living in Kurram’s main town of Parachinar to travel through the easterm Afghan province of Nangarhar to reach the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Later, Shia militias fought back against the pro-Taliban Sunni militias and forced at least 3,000 Sunni families to flee to other Pakistani cities.
Headed by Malik Waris Khan Afridi, the former federal minister from Khyber Agency, the 220-member tribal jirga took two years to arrange a negotiated peace deal (signed on 3 Feb 2011). Afridi said the safe and secure return of the tribesmen will be ensured by the government and Sunni and Shia tribesmen have pledged to uphold the deal.
Endorsed by the Taliban?
The peace agreement was reached between the Sunni and Shia elders in Islamabad on February 3. However, it was being feared in certain quarters that the TTP would not accept the deal.
Ironically, while all previous agreement and guarantees offered by the State (read Pakistan army) have failed (mostly by the Taliban ambushing Shia travellers to Parachinar), this specific agreement has been publicly endorsed by the Taliban (TTP).
The TTP has welcomed the agreement and pledged to abide by it. This was communicated by the group’s Kurram amir Fazal Saeed — wanted by the Government of Pakistan with a Rs5m bounty on his head — at a news conference. The militant leader added that those who violated the accord would be “punished in accordance with the Sharia” and assured the Shia community that it could use the Thall-Parachinar road without fear. The route has become a virtual death trap due to a Taliban blockade. Even convoys accompanied by security forces have been ambushed.
Asking all the stakeholders to abide by the pact, he said nobody would be allowed to sabotage the peace process. “We will first ask the political administration and jirga members to take action against the side violating the agreement. But we will be justified to punish the violators after 15 days as per the accord,” he warned. The militant leader added that Islamic teachings strictly prohibited violation of agreements when reached by warring sides for peace and tranquility and cessation of hostilities. He urged the Shia scholars to play their role in implementing the peace agreement as it was in the interest of all the people.
Reasons to be circumspect
Though the prospects for peace should be welcomed, there are a few aspects of the current agreement which make one circumspect about the agreement and its durability.
Firstly, it is a clear sign that the state has lost its writ in an area when a wanted man guarantees a peace agreement. (Or is it a case of the State (i.e., army) willingly handing over its writ to one of their own, i.e. Good Taliban?)
Secondly, the Taliban are the major reason for the area’s destabilisation. Can they be trusted to abide by the agreement? There have been peace deals in the past which have been most notable for the number of times they have been violated.
There are also reports that the deal has the blessings of the Sirajuddin Haqqani network (believed to have established itself in Kurram) while the security establishment has accepted this role. The area — bordering Afghanistan — is of immense strategic importance and observers say the sectarian conflict was affecting the Haqqani network’s anti-Isaf activities across the border. Tt will be interesting to note what kind of concessions have the Kurram Shias been forces to conceded in return for the lifting of blockade. Have the Shia elders agreed to provide safe refuge to the TTP fighters and jihadis operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Last but not least, there is a perception that although local militants may honour the agreement, Taliban / Sipah-e-Sahaba groups from Hangu or Kohat (led by PML-N’s Javed Ibrahim Paracha) may try to sabotage it.
The State’s failure
Thousands have been killed, injured and displaced while scores of villages have been torched since violence began in 2007 with the Taliban’s arrival.
However, the local administration and security forces are equally responsible for their abject failure in quelling the violence.
For there to be genuine peace in Kurram the state (read Pakistan army) — and not militants — must set the agenda. If peace is established, the government should initiate an investigation to take account of the human and material losses as a result of the violence, and the guilty must be brought to book.
Adapted from: Dawn and The News