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PESHAWAR: Delay in reopening road delays return of peace to Kurram

By Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR, Oct 23: Delay in reopening of Thall-Parachinar Road despite an agreement, reached between the warring tribes of Kurram tribal region in Murree on Oct 16, is likely to shatter people’s confidence.

Under the peace agreement, signed by the rival parties, a 30-member jirga had to proceed to Parachinar on Wednesday last by road to end yearlong blockade of the area bordering Afghanistan.

Former federal minister Malik Waris Khan Afridi, who is leading the jirga, told Dawn that plan had been revised and mediators comprising notables and former parliamentarians from Fata and Hangu district along with 34 local elders were likely to go to Parachinar on Saturday.

“Both parties want lasting peace and have agreed to reopen the main road and resolve the disputes. Now this is the government’s responsibility to facilitate the process for the jirga to proceed to the area by road in order to rebuild confidence of the local people,” he maintained.

He said that further delay in reopening of the main road might shatter peace process, adding that according to the agreement negligence on the part of the local administration or any other government agency might be considered a deliberate move to sabotage the peace process.

“If administration takes jirga members to Parachinar by helicopters then it will not serve the purpose and will spoil all the efforts,” he said and urged that the government should rein in trouble makers to save the peace process.

Upper parts of Kurram had remained cut off from the rest of the country since November 6 last when fierce clashes broke out in the region.

The blockade had badly affected socio-economic activities in the region which forced local people to travel to Peshawar via Afghanistan.

The political administration had made an abortive attempt to open the road in June last for transporting food to Parachinar but the convoy was attacked near Sadda in Lower Kurram.

Sajjid Hussain, an MNA from the area, said that around 1,600 people had been killed and more then 3,000 wounded in fighting, causing large scale displacement and destruction. He said that Fata Secretariat in coordination with the Federal Interior Ministry was working out a plan for road safety.

Sources said that one of the reasons for delaying visit of jirga was immediate transfer of political agent Mohammad Azam Khan, who was posted as managing director of Sarhad Tourism Corporation.

Officials said that as the political agent was transferred after he was promoted to grade 20. Only grade 19 officer can be posted as political agent of Kurram.

“Transfer of Azam Khan at this very moment was not a wise decision on the part of the government.

His transfer conveys a clear message that government is not sincere in restoration of peace in Kurram,” said a jirga member from Parachinar. He said that Azam Khan should stay in Parachinar once joint jirga reached by road to start dialogue.

Sources said that normalcy was fast returning to Kurram valley and rival groups had voluntarily vacated trenches in sensitive areas and stopped plundering and destroying each other properties.

In Parachinar town, the administrative headquarters, local elders have voluntarily placed complete ban on display of weapons. Peace committees have been set up to check the movement of miscreants. (Dawn)

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