But before that, a quick update on the situation in the Kurram Agency: At least 700 people have been killed and more than a thousand have been wounded in the last 35 days of violence. The Turi tribes claim to have killed several important commanders of the Taliban militants and torched their houses in Bagzai, an area comprising about 200 villages which had become a Taliban stronghold. The Turi forces managed to capture it on August 31, 2008. They also claim to have discovered huge quantity of ammunition, explosives, suicide attack jackets, and incriminating documents in the captured area. As in any situation of prolonged violence and war, the groups most devastated in the ongoing clashes are women, children, and the elderly. Hundreds of families have been displaced from both upper and lower Kurram areas in the last 15 months. (See Dawn, Sep 10, Daily Times, Sep 03, 2008, Daily Times, Sep 01, 2008, Dawn, Sep 01, 2008, Dawn, Aug 18, 2008).
The news stories that I cite above provide a bit nuanced account of the situation, identifying the various sides and their complex interactions. But, generally, the coverage of the ongoing violence in the Kurram Agency has been of mixed quality. I am especially disappointed with their use of labels like "sectarian" and "tribal" in quite simplistic terms. These labels seem to carry both the question (of "what") and the answer (of "why") of the clashes in their very definition in many news stories. The above stories, however, hint that the reality is quite complicated. I have already shared my understanding of the situation previously (see here). The mixed quality reporting makes it especially difficult to ascertain the source of the conflict.
A second point: While talking to a few people recently I felt that some want a sort of 'moral clarity' in this conflict where one side there should be a blatant oppressor and the other a helpless oppressed. The moment the oppressed starts to fight back, the morality picture gets blurred. Now they don't want to make the judgment of right and wrong or do anything to help the oppressed anymore.
I wonder if these two may be the reason why we haven't seen an enthusiastic response from certain segments of the people of conscience(?)
Anyway, here are the two news items, from today:
My quick translation:
Kurram Agency: Attacks continue despite the ceasefire, Eight including militants killed
PARACHINAR (Jang News): Clashes continue on for the 35th day in succession in various parts of the Kurram Agency. Seven militants and a civilian were killed in fresh clashes. Militant attacks also killed a woman from a local tribe, carrying water to her home, while injuring seven others, including a child. A ceasefire was announced by the rival tribes, but militants from external areas continue on with their attacks, in Inzari, Bagzai, Sadda, Khaarkile, Balishkhel, Sangina, Parachamkani, Pewar, Tangi, Tarimangal, Maqbal, and Kanj Alizai. In these clashes between the militants and the local tribal forces, in the Bagzai area near the Pak-Afghan border, seven militants were killed. In Balishkhel, militant firing killed a local tribal woman who was carrying water to her home. Seven others, including a boy, were also injured. In the Upper Kurram areas, including Parachinar, electricity has not been restored for more than 20 days now, making it especially difficult during the holy month of Ramadhan. Due to shortage of electricity and petrol and diesel, phone lines and mobile networks have broken down. Banks have run out of cash; government servants have not received their payments for the month of August even after ten days [of September] have passed. The government servants are in difficult situation.
From The News
Eight killed in Kurram clashes
By our correspondent
PARACHINAR: Eight people, including a woman, were killed and seven others injured as clashes between Turi and Bangash tribesmen continued in various parts of the restive Kurram Agency on Wednesday. Sources said despite the ceasefire announcement by the warring sectarian groups, attacks and counter-attacks are the order of the day and both the rival factions are continuously targeting each other's positions with heavy weapons. The sources added that fierce fighting was going on in Chardiwali, Jalamay, Balishkhel, Tangi, Arawali, Kunj Alizai, Pewar and Karman, leaving eight people dead and seven others injured. A woman and a child were among the dead and the injured respectively.
Source: The News, September 11, 2008. Accessed on September 11, 2008.