THOUGH the army announced on Thursday that operation Koh-i-Sufaid in central Kurram Agency had been wrapped up, it is clear that the mission in the area is far from accomplished. And while the army chief was in Kurram when it was announced that the central part of the agency had been cleared of militants, many questions about the operation and what it achieved (or rather failed to achieve) remain. In a statement the ISPR announced that “clearance of central Kurram will ensure opening of [the] Thall-Parachinar road”. However, it is unclear how this will happen when action against militants has been taken in only a selected area and nothing concrete has been done to open the vital link road and ensure the security of those who use it. If people remain trapped, what has been achieved?

The Thall-Parachinar road is the key link connecting Kurram Agency to the rest of Pakistan. However, it has been blocked by the Taliban-backed local tribal extremists for nearly four years, as a result of which people have to take a treacherous detour through Afghanistan. The blockade has left the people of Kurram marooned, left to their fate by the state and unable to freely travel. Those who do attempt to use the road are targeted by militants. Considering such a situation it was thought that the prime objective of the army would have been to secure the road. But this was apparently not the case. Observers say that, instead, the army's aim was to flush out militants hiding in central Kurram who had escaped from other conflict zones and to cut off a route to North Waziristan.

Though it has been said the military did not want to get involved in the region's 'sectarian' strife — Kurram's Shia and Sunni tribes have been at loggerheads — and hence avoided a larger operation, this explanation is not satisfactory. Ensuring people's safety and their freedom of movement and ending a blockade enforced by militants is really a law and order issue. Though peace between the tribes must be facilitated, leaving them to handle security issues, most importantly the security of the Thall-Parachinar road, is a policy that has failed to bear fruit. There have been many peace agreements in the past, but it is fair to say that unless the state resolves to maintain security no peace accord can succeed in the long term. Providing security is the duty of the state and it cannot be outsourced to non-state actors. It is hoped the state has a plan to secure the key road. Militants cannot be given a free rein any longer and allowed to terrorise the people of Kurram.

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