Recently, media outlets have highlighted the situation in the Kurram Agency, located in Pakistan’s FATA region. Residents of the area are currently facing a food shortage due to an eight-month blockade of the Peshawar-Par Central Highway [as well as other major roads]. Below, CHUP contributor Jehan Riar [who also wrote “Pakistan’s Polio Problem”], discusses the security and humanitarian situation in the region:
The violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims, which has plagued parts of Pakistan, has further escalated under the weight of the increasing influence of the Taliban. Parachinar, the headquarters of the Kurram Agency located on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where the Taliban has employed methods like shooting, beheading, and even lynching, has been terrorized since April 2007. Moreover, the Taliban has been targeting people indigenous to the Kurram Agency, mostly followers of the Shia belief, because they refuse to conform to the Taliban ideology.
The single road that links Kurram Agency to Peshawar has been blockaded by the Taliban since April 2007 and other land routes that can be used to travel to the confined area from other parts of the country are not available. This blockade has caused numerous problems and the situation is so severe that doctors in the Northwest Frontier Province have appealed for urgent medical care to help prevent yet another humanitarian crisis.
Import of essential supplies such as medicine, relief items and even flour sugar and oil are no longer available in the area due to a blockade of the Kurram agency by Sunni tribesmen. Dr. Asghar Jan, head of the main hospital in the Kurram tribal district told the BBC, “there is a serious shortage of food as well as medical supplies due to the road blockade.”
In an attempt to avoid Taliban attacks on schools in the Kurram Agency, the Pakistani government postponed secondary school final examinations. When the examinations were later restored due to student-held protests, two students were kidnapped and killed by the Taliban. Since this incident, the education of students stranded in Parachinar has been adversely affected, evidenced by a decrease in literacy and employment in the region. Jabar Ali, a Parachinar doctor, working in Peshawar, said to the BBC, “My brothers are sisters who are due to sit exams have not been able to go to school because no teachers are available…many teachers have left the area because…people cannot lead normal lives.”
In June 2008, the Pakistani government’s attempts to bring a road convoy of supplies to the confined minority were spoiled by armed Taliban fighters, resulting in a shoot-out, killing several, mostly Shia, truck drivers. As a last resort, people of the area are now smuggling basic necessities such as oil, wheat and sugar into the district by horse through small channels in the mountains.
The situation in the Kurram Agency is dire and poses major humanitarian ramifications if the region continues to remain isolated. The sectarian nature of the violence is also problematic. According to the BBC, “Residents say this is the first time that the sectarian conflict has led to a sustained and organized blockade of the region. They blame the Taliban.”
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