The seemingly interminable violence in the Parachinar area of Kurram Agency has spiked once again. This time a water dispute between two of the four main tribes — Bangash and Mangal — has claimed the lives of over 100 people in weeklong fighting that shows no sign of abating. Water, along with other resources such as forests, has long been a source of inter-tribal rivalry in the agency, but what makes Kurram Agency doubly dangerous is that the violence has been thoroughly infused with sectarian hatreds — starting as far back as 1982, though much of the present blame must lie with the ingress of the Taliban in the area in 2007.
For a couple of years the area remained cut off from the rest of Pakistan with the closure of a key road; however, a political agreement signed in Murree and a limited military operation in the area has helped to reopen the Thall-Parachinar road. Limited traffic continues to move on the road, though many people of the area still use the Afghan route to travel to other parts of Pakistan because of the dangers involved. (The Afghan route is no less dangerous in July, 11 residents of Parachinar who were en route to Peshawar via Kabul were ambushed and killed in Paktia.)
Bringing an end to the violence in Kurram Agency, and the Parachinar area in particular is a matter of the state taking its responsibilities more seriously. The agreement signed in Murree in October 2008 was in part possible because of the initiative of the then political agent of the agency, who has since been replaced. That agreement remains the best hope for the return of peace to the area and as such should be implemented in all earnestness. From the return of displaced persons, some of whom have not returned home since the 1982 violence, to the payment of compensation for property damaged and destroyed to the return of property confiscated, the agreement encompasses many sensible and pragmatic measures. In addition, cellphone services should be restored in the area (at present, locals have to use Afghan SIMs and networks, which adds to the difficulties of life).
By now it should be apparent that the longer Pakistan delays resolving the crisis in Kurram Agency, the more it will slip back towards the sphere of Afghan, and by extension American, influence. Such a development may only further complicate the resolution of the troubles in the area. The sooner the Murree accord is implemented the better. Unfortunately, implementation isn't the state's strongest suit.