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In-camera briefing on Parachinar today

December 11, 2011

A view of the National Assembly. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, Dec 11: Civil and military leadership from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and officials of secret agencies will brief members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights on the situation in violence-hit Parachinar during an in-camera meeting at the Parliament House here on Monday, informed sources told Dawn.

The 20-member committee, headed by Riaz Fatyana of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, had called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kausar, Peshawar Corps Commander Gen Khalid Rabbani and the ISI sector commander to brief members about human rights violations in Parachinar area of the Kurram Agency because of the closure of the Thall-Parachinar road.

Although the committee had taken up the issue of growing sectarianism and militancy in Parachinar in its previous meetings too, it will be for the first time that it will receive a formal briefing on the issue from higher civil and military leadership. The committee has also invited all MNAs from tribal areas to attend the meeting.

The issue of the forced closure of the Thall-Parachinar Road was raised by an MNA from the area, Mr Sajid Turi, in the National Assembly in April on a point of order. He demanded of the government to take stern action against militant groups who were allegedly kidnapping and attacking vehicles carrying passengers on the road.

Mr Turi had accused Taliban militants of kidnapping more than 40 members of his Shia tribe. The tribal MNA had also alleged that the truce had not been upheld by Taliban.

The Thall-Parachinar Road had remained closed for most of the time since its reopening in March this year because of attacks and killings of local people in violation of a truce reached in early February at a jirga presided over by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and tribal elders from all agencies, including MNAs Sajid Turi, Munir Orakzai, Engineer Shaukatullah and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi. The federal government and the jirga had announced the reopening of the Thall-Parachinar Road on Feb 5 this year after remaining closed for almost four years.

Because of its strategic location, Kurram Agency has always been of critical importance for militants. It connects tribal areas of Pakistan to Afghanistan through lower, central and upper Kurram, providing militants an easy access to and from Afghanistan.

Some members of the Turi-Bangash tribes of Parachinar, through an open letter to members of the NA Standing Committee on Human Rights, had stressed them to summon the governor, corps commander and other officials of secret agencies to explain human rights violations and the four-year siege of nearly half a million people of Parachinar, an area they had termed an “under-siege Pakistani Gaza”.

The members of the NA committee are Yasmeen Rehman, Farahnaz Ispahani, Mumtaz Gilani, Samina Mushtaq Pugganwala, Shakeela Khanam Rasheed, Rahela Baloch, Fauzia Habib and Mehreen Razzaque Bhutto of PPP, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Nisar Tanveer, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, Sabeen Rizvi, Sumaira Yasir Rashid and Dr Araish Kumar of the PML-N, Jamila Gilani of Awami National Party, Dr Attiya Inayatullah of the PML-Q, Khush Bakht Shujaat and Kishwar Zehra of Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jawaad Hussain (Independent).