ANALYSIS: Kurram, peace accords and state writ —Farhat Taj - Saturday, February 12, 2011

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Why has the Murree Agreement not been implemented since 2008? The agreement is acceptable to both Shias and Sunnis. It is the government of Pakistan that has constantly failed to impose its writ on the warring groups in Kurram to facilitate the implementation of the Murree Agreement

A grand jirga of tribal elders and parliamentarians from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) announced on February 3, 2011, a new peace accord for the resolution of the violent crisis in Kurram Agency since 2007 that has displaced thousands of Shia and Sunni residents. The grand jirga announced the reopening of the Tal-Parachinar road. Shia travellers have come under repeated attacks on this road since 2007. The leader of the jirga, Malik Waris Khan, led a convoy to Parachinar. The people of Kurram, both Shia and Sunni, welcomed the convoy all along the way.

The people of Kurram are sick and tired of the violence that has been affecting their native Agency since 2007 and welcome anything that speaks of peace. But does the new accord holds anything meaningful for the affected people of Kurram, including the internally displaced people (IDPs)? Will it become safe for the Shia travellers to travel on the Tal-Parachinar road from now onwards? Will the IDPs, Sunni and Shia both, be able to go back to their native areas? There are no clear answers to these questions and it seems that peace in Kurram will remain elusive.

The recent peace accord is hardly anything more than a collection of recommendations and appeals to the government of Pakistan with no guarantee of appropriate action from the government’s side. The accord requests the government of Pakistan to extend full cooperation and take necessary steps for the repatriation of the IDPs and implementation of the Murree Agreement. It appeals to the government of Pakistan to approve a special development package for Kurram to compensate for the losses the agency has suffered in violent clashes since 2007. The accord urges both Shias and Sunnis to show restraint and patience and cooperate with the government for peace in Kurram. Similarly, it urges the Kurram political administration and the security forces to play their due role in the establishment of the writ of the government in Kurram. It also requests more security checkposts in Kurram.

The Murree Agreement was signed in October 2008 between the Kurram Shia and Sunni tribal elders under the auspices of the government of Pakistan. The agreement asks for armed Shia and Sunni groups to vacate their positions and the repatriation of IDPs — none of the two issues have been resolved by the government since 2008. The armed groups have extended their control over more and more areas since the agreement. Instead of repatriation of the displaced people under the Murree Agreement, hundreds more people became IDPs in the Shia-Sunni clashes of August 2010.

Why has the Murree Agreement not been implemented since 2008? The agreement is acceptable to both Shias and Sunnis. It is the government of Pakistan that has constantly failed to impose its writ on the warring groups in Kurram to facilitate the implementation of the Murree Agreement. Pakistan is not a weak state in terms of security apparatus. It is illogical to argue that the state does not have the ability to impose its writ on the warring Shia and Sunni groups in Kurram. I have yet to see anyone in Kurram who believes that the government of Pakistan does not have the power to enforce its writ in Kurram. Everyone argues that the government is deliberately desisting from restoring its writ in the Agency in the pursuit of some strategic goals. What has changed now in terms of the state’s strategic calculus that might make the government enforce its writ in Kurram? The accord provides no guarantees that the government of Pakistan will not compromise on the writ of the state in Kurram.

Following the announcement of the new peace accord, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Commander in Kurram, Fazal Saeed, publicly declared that anyone violating the new accord would be punished according to shariah. How can the TTP commander declare this if there is any writ of the government in Kurram? The government must clarify whether the people of Kurram are subject to the Taliban’s shariah law or the law of Pakistan.

The accord is silent over the future role of the individuals that the Shia and Sunni IDPs hold responsible for the bloodshed in Kurram and atrocities committed against their near and dear ones. The Shias hold local Sunnis like Eid Nazar Mangal, linked with the Punjab-based anti-Shia terrorist group Sipah-e-Sahaba, and the TTP’s Fazal Saeed as being responsible for the crimes against them. The Sunnis hold local Shias like Abid Hussain, Syed Hashem Ibrahimzai and a non-local Shia cleric, Maulana Irfan Nawaz Irfani, responsible for the atrocities committed against the Sunnis in Kurram. Will the government ever enforce its writ on these people and others like them to the satisfaction of the IDPs from both sects? The new accord offers nothing to ensure the Shias that from now onwards the state will end its collusion with the Taliban and eliminate them. The accord also provides nothing to satisfy the Sunnis that the Shia militant groups they hold responsible for their massacre and displacement will ever be eliminated. The Sunni IDPs even demand a military operation in Parachinar city against the Shia militant groups there. The peace accord does not address such concerns of the Shia and Sunni IDPs.

It is essentially the lack of state writ that has been afflicting Kurram with so much violence since 2007. No amount of peace accords will work until the state’s writ has been restored in Kurram.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

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