PARACHINAR, May 19: Corps Commander Lt-Gen Asif Yaseen Malik has hinted at launching a military operation to clear the restive Kurram tribal region of militants and make Thall-Parachinar Road safer for travelling.
Addressing a jirga of tribal elders in this administrative headquarters of the region on Thursday, the officer said a strategy was being chalked out to empty the area of trouble-makers.
“Result-oriented action will be taken very soon,” he told the jirga which was also attended by Inspector General of Frontier Corps Maj-Gen Nadir Zeb, Additional Chief Secretary Fazal Karim Khattak and other senior officials. Gen Malik urged the tribal elders and people to fulfil their responsibilities and pinpoint criminals and anti-state elements.On the occasion, tribal elders called for immediate and safe recovery of kidnapped persons and security to passengers on the Thall-Parachinar Road.
They assured the military officials of full support for restoration of peace in the area.
The elders said that government should replace paramilitary forces with the army in the area. “The government should deploy regular army on the main road,” they added. They alleged that Frontier Corps had lost the confidence of people as the force failed to provide security to local population.
Local people have stopped travelling on the main road after an attack on passengers in March last. About 13 passengers were killed and more than 30 kidnapped by the attackers.
Sources said that military operation in the area was on the card. “Perhaps the operation will be launched after the release of 31 persons, who were kidnapped when militants attacked on the passenger coaches in Beggan town on March 26,” sources said.
Meanwhile, negotiators were busy in talks with the kidnappers to finalise a deal for the release of the hostages, according to well-placed sources.
They said that negotiations were being held at a secret location. Kidnappers, they said, had demanded huge ransom for the release of abducted passengers.
“We are expecting good news. The captors can free hostages anytime,” said a source. He said that two separate militant groups were involved in attack on vehicles and kidnapping of passengers.
The Thall-Parachinar Road, the only artery linking Kurram with other parts of the country, remained closed to normal traffic since November 2007 when clashes broke out in the area. It was reopened to traffic in February after a peace deal was signed between the Sunni and Shia sects, living in the tribal region.