Friday, October 17, 2008

Agreement kindles hope of peace in Kurram

One certainly hopes for this agreement to last long(er). But one should also not neglect that the conflict in Kurram is larger than a mere confrontation between local tribes. There are external forces involved. That includes Taliban, who are still present in the agency and clashing with the locals (even after an initial agreement between tribes on Sep 27, 2008 to cease fire), and who are supported by extremist militant groups from other provinces, as well as rogue elements within the security apparatus of the state. Kurram is part of a larger game being played in Fata and across the Afghan border. The future of peace in Kurram is directly linked to the political outcomes in these regions. In Kurram, the government and the tribal elders are the key players who can make the peace agreement work. The opening and safety of the main Tal-Parachinar route is the most immediate challenge.

On a related note, one should also look into the conditions that made the current peace agreement possible. Why the forces that were earlier not willing to concede and open up the Tal-Parachinar road are now willing to concede? What changed?

Agreement kindles hope of peace in Kurram
By Bakhtawar Mian, Dawn, October 17, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Oct 16: A grand jirga of Kurram Agency has brokered a peace deal between warring sectarian groups in the region.

Under the agreement, the two sides agreed to exchange kidnapped people and reopen all roads in the area.

The agreement was signed after weeks of efforts made by the peace jirga comprising 50 representatives of each side.

Elders and Maliks of the two sects took part in the dialogue. Kurram Agency’s Political Agent Azam Khan represented the government and played the key role of mediator.

The talks were held in Islamabad and Murree and details of the agreement were announced at a press conference on Thursday.

The accord is expected to end the violence between Sunni Bangash and Shia Turi tribesmen that has plagued the agency bordering Afghanistan for one and a half years.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the clashes and the road to Parachinar has remained closed for several months, cutting off supplies to the agency’s main town.

People coming to Peshawar have been forced to travel via the Paktia province of Afghanistan.

The political agent said he was confident the accord would herald an era of peace in the agency because both the groups had agreed to cooperate with the administration for the purpose.

The agreement says that roads would be reopened to ensure supply of foodstuff, medicines and other essential items.

They also agreed to exchange bodies of people killed and tribesmen of the two sides kidnapped and captured and to allow the displaced people to return to their villages.

Both the groups have promised to provide protection to travellers. Bunkers would be vacated and handed over to the Frontier Corps.

A fine of Rs60 million will be imposed for any violation of the agreement. Any violation will be treated as a move against peace and violators will be dealt with accordingly.

The grand jirga will go to Kurram Agency on November 2 to ensure implementation of the agreement by both sides.

Another jirga will be held next month to resolve other contentious issues.

The tribal elders promised to cooperate with the government in maintaining peace.

They said the agency did not have the required strength of FC and the government would be asked to deploy more law-enforcement personnel.

The political agent proposed that the government should allocated funds as a peace dividend for development of the agency and to serve as an incentive for other agencies to strive for peace.

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