FRIDAY’S twin bombings in Parachinar illustrate just how fragile the security situation in the Kurram Agency headquarters is. Some 50 people have been killed in the blasts, which targeted a marketplace and taxi stand clogged with a pre-iftar crowd. Such blasts targeting civilians in crowded public places have become routine in Parachinar and occur every few months. At least two similar bombings in markets took place in the town last year, resulting in high death tolls. The area where the blasts occurred is a Shia-dominated one and reports indicate that a group calling itself Ansarul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the bombings; in fact, it has said it would also target the Shia community in future. The attack has occurred at a sensitive time, in the run-up to the Youm-i-Ali observance on Ramazan 21.
Kurram is located in a tough tribal neighbourhood, where tribal politics mix with militancy and the wider sectarian conflict that is playing out in Pakistan. The sectarian tensions in the region predate the rise of militancy in this country. Yet with militancy becoming Pakistan’s biggest security headache over the last decade or so, the violence jihadi and sectarian groups have unleashed in the region has only intensified tribal and communal divisions. It is a positive sign that Kurram’s major tribes, including the Turi and Bangash, are still keen on mending fences and seeking a peaceful settlement to outstanding issues. Nevertheless, whenever militants, believed to be operating from outside Kurram, perpetrate violence, there are valid fears that the desire for peace may give way to renewed sectarian and tribal conflict.
As in so many other parts of the country, militancy is the biggest security challenge in Kurram. There are numerous militant groups, with varying motives, that are active in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt. In Kurram’s context, clearing the neighbouring Orakzai Agency of militants could be key to establishing a lasting peace. Though the military has carried out operations in Orakzai, pockets of militants remain. There may be layers of security in Parachinar, including the army and checkposts manned by community volunteers, but more effort is required to keep a watch over the tough terrain between Kurram and Orakzai through which militants can infiltrate. To ensure that these militants do not exacerbate tensions between the tribes adherence to the Murree accord signed some years ago is necessary; all points agreed upon in the document, such as those relating to compensation for internally displaced persons, should be implemented.