PARACHINAR: Rival Sunni and Shiite communities in a Pakistani region close to the Afghan border have agreed to end a four-year conflict that claimed hundreds of lives, officials said Wednesday.
Taliban militants have reportedly aided the Sunni sect in Kurram region, where the agreement was reached. Tribesmen have also reported that an Afghan militant group blamed for attacks in Afghanistan had cut a deal with the Shiites so they could use Kurram as a staging ground.
It was unclear how the agreement would affect those dynamics. A local Pakistani Taliban commander said he welcomed the deal, but was not involved. He said his fighters would help enforce it - a possible sign they had emerged a strong force after the fighting there.
The fighting in Kurram region has left hundreds dead and the main road leading to it was too dangerous to travel. Residents wishing to visit the main northwestern town of Peshawar and other parts of Pakistan had to cross into Afghanistan to avoid the road.
Waris Khan Afridi, the head of a tribal council, said the two sects had agreed to stop fighting for the benefit of their communities.
Mussadaq Shah, the government's most senior representative in Kurram, confirmed the peace agreement.
On Tuesday, a convoy of cars carrying leaders from both communities as well as government officials traveled the main road to publicize the deal.
''God willing, there will be no more fighting between Shiite and Sunni here in the future,'' Afridi said.
The tribal regions close to Afghanistan are a hotbed of religious militants. The Pakistani army has launched offensives in several areas, and the United States has fired hundreds of missiles at suspected militants.
Local Taliban chief Fazal Saeed told The Associated Press that his fighters supported the deal.
''We will punish all those who would violate this peace deal,'' he said in a telephone interview. – AP