Pakistan army chief General Kayani with the troops at Mandan during his visits in Kurram Agency in August 2011. – Photo by PPI
Cross posted from: Pakistan Blogzine
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Terrorists belonging to the Haqqani Taliban killed seven Shia Muslims today in an attack on a minibus in the Kurram agency, northwestern Pakistan.The gunmen belonging to Haqqani Taliban (backed by ISI) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, an affiliate of PML-N) ambushed the bus in an area of the Kurram tribal region. The driver and six passengers were all Shiites.
According to the sources, the passenger vehicle was traveling from the Alizai area to Parachinar when the armed assailants opened fire, killing four people on the spot and severely wounding four others. Moreover, three of the four wounded people later died at at the Agency Headquarter Hospital while the fourth was said to be in critical condition. Meanwhile, local tribesmen were reported to have engaged the fleeing attackers in a gun-battle. Six out of the seven people who lost their lives in the incident belonged to the same family. (Source1, Source 2)
It may be noted that only a few days ago, Pakistan army (ISPR) was boasting on so called victory over militants in the Kurram agency. On 19 August, the army had announced the ending of military offensive in Kurram Agency after “clearing only Central Kurram of militants”, but leaving the opening of a crucial road link to an accord between the warring tribes.
The official announcement of the conclusion of the operation code-named Koh-i-Sufaid came with the visit of Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to the region.
“Clearance of Central Kurram will ensure opening of Tal-Parachinar Road,” a statement issued by ISPR said without assigning reasons why an offensive in Lower Kurram was avoided and the operation was wound up before the only road link between the remote parts of the agency and the other parts of the country could be cleared. (Source)
Opening of Tal-Parachinar Road was one of the major objectives for starting the operation, an objective which Pakistan army so obviously failed to achieved as it could hurt its own affiliate Haqqani network of Taliban.
One reason why military is believed to have kept itself out of Lower Kurram and conducted a limited level operation in the central region was possibly the defection of Fazal Saeed Haqqani from the ranks of Hakeemullah, days ahead of the operation. Fazal’s militia, according to sources in Kurram, remained untouched because of his last-minute move, citing differences with the TTP leadership.
Tribal elders from Upper Kurram at a jirga held with political administration earlier this week questioned the logic for restricting the military offensive to Central Kurram, while leaving intact the terror infrastructure in the lower region, which had engineered a humanitarian crisis in Upper Kurram by keeping Tal-Parachinar road blocked for almost four years and killing Shias. (Source)
Daud Khattak writes:
On Aug. 18, Pakistan’s most powerful man, Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, secretly flew to Kurram agency in the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and declared it free of “miscreants.” But Kayani’s visit and announcement raise the following question: What do “clear” and “miscreants” mean for a Pakistani Army fighting to regain control of the area from a discreet force that can shift, hit, kill, and target anywhere, any place, and any time? And if the area had been successfully cleared, why did Kayani not travel by road, and why did he not meet the open jirgas of tribal elders in that area, as was the tradition when top Pakistani officials visited the tribal belt before 2001?
Indeed, it would have been great fun if Kayani had taken the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province (the federal government figure who is actually in charge of administering the FATA) along with him, traveling by road to the “cleared” area so that the youth of Kurram could welcome them with the beating of drums and traditional dance, attan, instead of welcoming Kayani’s visit from afar while begging him to finish the job and lift the siege on Kurram’s main city, Parachinar. Only then would the people of Kurram come to believe that their area had truly been secured.
However, locals told this writer, they still cannot travel on the Tal-Parachinar road without risking their security, despite the two-month-long operation and ensuing “victory.”
All the available accounts from Central Kurram suggest that one of the major impacts of the operation was that it forced the local population to leave their homes, allowing the Taliban to go from village to village, burning the villages vacated by the people. According to reports aired by the Pashto-language radio station Mashaal, so far 16 villages have been burned to the ground by the Taliban in spite of the Army operation, with each village consisting of an average of 50 to 60 houses.
Similar operations have already been conducted in other tribal agencies — South Waziristan, Mohmand, Bajaur, and the Bara area of Khyber, where the security forces have been engaged in combat operations for the past two years while the people live under a curfew — and been declared successes.
In Kurram, the road to Parachinar has been closed by militants for the last few years, while the security forces have merely looked on. Suddenly and unexpectedly, these same forces announced a clearing operation, but only in an area where the situation was quite calm and peaceful.
The road to Upper Kurram that goes from Peshawar to Parachinar via Tal is still closed, and the people, scared of being kidnapped or killed, still travel through the Afghan cities of Jalalabad, Kabul, Khost, and Gardez to reach Parachinar.
Many locals with whom this writer talked on the phone say the real militant problem existed in Lower Kurram, while the Army was engaged for the past two months in Central Kurram. During the whole operation, it was not made clear who or which group of militants was being targeted, or whether any prominent militant leaders had been killed or arrested.
It is equal parts interesting and tragic that only a day after Gen. Kayani’s visit to Central Kurram and the announcement regarding the “clearance” of the area, a teenage bomber wreaked havoc on worshippers in a mosque offering Friday congregational prayers in the Jamrud subdivision of Khyber agency, an area previously declared “clear” of militants. (Source)