Conflict in Kurram Agency: Nature and Causes
Muhammad Zaheer Khan & Sharafat Ali Chaudhry
Kurram is one of the seven tribal agencies; it was declared as agency in 1892 and became the part of Pakistan in 1947. The sectarian violence remained an issue since long but the sectarian identities as well as hostilities became worse during past few years. The population is divided into three sub-divisions, namely Upper Kurram (almost 80% Shia), Central Kurram (95% Sunni) and Lower Kurram (80% Sunni). Around 935,000 people are living in 3,380 square kilometers in the agency which is bordered with the North Waziristan in the South, Hangu, Orakzai and Khyber Agency in the East, whilst it shares its border with Afghanistan’s area Nangarhar in the North.
The security situation in Kurram Agency is marred with sectarian violence and remained volatile in the first two quarters of 2012. There were 133 casualties reported in 17 incidents. A total of 80 people were killed and 55 were injured. It is argued that sectarian violence gave room to the outsider militant-groups in Kurram Agency. Most of the local people supported the militants, who came from other tribal regions and across the border from Afghanistan which paved way for the emergence of local militants groups by using the local enmity between the two sects, the Sunni and the Shia. Main Shia militant groups include Hizbullah, Mehdi Militia and Hydri Taliban. Major Sunni militant group include TTP, Tehrik e Taliban Islami Pakistan (TTIP) of Fazal Saeed Haqqani and Haqqani Network. Fazal Saeed Haqqani has separated from TTP and formed TTI P.
Causes of Conflict:
The traditional setup including traditional institutes such as Jarga, Hujra etc, has been exploited by the miscreants who have been supported by the non-local militants groups. On the other hand, the Maliks who used to sit in the jury of Jarga have been threatened many times which compelled them to leave their area. The other thing which becomes the cause for this militancy is the non-seriousness of the Political Administration in Kurram. In the most cases the preemptive measures can stop any unfair incident but due to the non-seriousness of Political Administration and security forces unfavorable things terrorize people’s lives in Kurram.
Lack of education and unemployment become one of the main causes of youth for joining militancy where they get what they cannot in their ordinary lives. It is not only the youth who become the target of militancy but the deprived and marginalized classes of the society also join militancy to get prestige and save their identity. The majority of militants’ leaders have criminal record. Due to the poor financial status Youth in Kurram remained illiterate which caused their joining militancy. After joining militancy they follow their Amir (commander) blindly. The low profile people in the society join militancy where they gain prestige and power. Unfortunately, the Jarga system is also dominated by corrupt Maliks who dispense so called justice according to their own whims and wishes. Most of the elders, those who have vision, were eliminated from militants’ way, that created a vacuum in the leadership and authority in the traditional tribal setup; that further paved way for the leadership of the low profile and criminal people in the society. The government ignored Kurram agency for providing education and employment opportunities to the local people. In such circumstances people preferred to leave the area in search of education facilities and employment opportunities in settled districts of Pakistan. One of the causes of low literacy rate in most of the areas of Kurram is due to Mullah and Maliks where they create hurdles in the way of getting education. In most of the cases these Maliks and Mullahs directly threaten the teachers. Similarly, one cannot ignore the international scenario where the world power (US) waged war on terrorist organizations and against states which supposedly accommodated these terrorists. This war became lethal for sustaining peace in Kurram. Once, in 1980s, the peace was evaporated from the land of Kurram when Pakistan along with other supporting countries wanted to stop the then USSR from heading towards ‘warm water’. There is a force which does not allow the two conflicting sects (Shia and Sunni) to settle their issues. The force has been declared as a ‘third force’ by the local people in Kurram. The force has been supported by the outsider militants’ organizations including some foreign countries. Even the locals perceive involvement of political administration and our security forces in supporting the third force.
On the basis of interaction with locals of Kurram agency on the future of Kurram, few things may be considered extremely important for establishing peace in future. The future peace process can be carried out by the three parties including the members of the two sects and the government agencies of Pakistan. The government policies must be embraced by the locals of Kurram. The government must not rely on ‘quick and fix formula’ which includes masses suppression and large scale military operations. Restoration of pure Jarga system can help in settling the disputes between the two sects where the elders of the two sects must be involved so that they could solve and settle their issues through the indigenous way. For the restoration of peace through the local setup (Jarga) and the elders on both sides must be protected from any unfair incident. Most of the time the elders who tried to remove grievances among people were given threats which caused their step-backing from peace process. It became crystal clear that all sorts of militants have been supported by the non-local militants’ organizations based inside Kurram and other regions. Therefore to eliminate militants from the agency Government need to stop the source of empowering these militants. Such organizations always became the source of inspiration for the local militants. Education is also a hope for restoring peace by making the people aware of their rights and responsibilities. This facility of education must be extended to the far-flung areas of Kurram agency to reduce militancy and sectarian differences among the people of those areas. It has been noticed that most of the new recruits are among the unemployed youth of Kurram where they try to find money and prestige thereby joining militants. So, employment opportunities and youth engagement initiatives can hinder them from joining militancy. Education sector has been considered damaged by the non supportive behavior of the religious clerics (Imams/Mullahs) and traditional leaders (elders and Maliks). Flourishing education in Kurram agency requires their moral support. Teachers exchange program between the two sects is helpful in enhancing tolerance and unity while this exchange is only possible through the moral support of the religious and traditional leadership in Kurram. On the macro level, American withdrawal will prove the end point of Kurram conflict (it causes the support of foreign states for the third force inside Kurram agency), it will lead towards a stable Afghanistan which is necessary for peaceful and stable Kurram. The rehabilitation of IDPs, in other parts of Kurram and out of Kurram in other settles districts, also remained the cause of sectarian differences in the agency. The sting of sectarian violence needs to be removed from the two sects by propagating the conflict as a conflict between two tribes rather than between two sects. Because it has been often exploited by external forces. The government must not rely on the quick and fix formulas including suppression of common people and mass scale military operations which always became the cause of people depression.
Disclaimer: Opinions / views expressed in commentaries / articles published on FRC website are those of contributors and should not be attributed to FRC in any way.