Parachinar is the capital of Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. The area jutting into the Afghan Province of Paktia once served as the summer residence for the Mughal emperors. However the scenic beauty has been overshadowed by the fears of Taliban insurgency after the long Afghan war during the 80s and 90s. Today the Taliban insurgents have possessed the land with a reign of terror, forcing the locals to evacuate in fear.
The insurgency is not a recent event. Blogger Razz provides a quick peek in the past at Waking Life:
Parachinar and Pakistan's other frontier regions have been the victim of a Taliban insurgency ever since the Americans invaded Afghanistan. The ensuing conflict has literally obliterated the tourism industry of that region, and such beautiful places and others (Swat etc.) have sadly been marred by conflict for months now.
Ali Hassnain takes a deeper look at the history of sectarian clashes in the area:
Parachinar is the main city in the Khurram Agency, the only (slim) Shia majority agency in FATA. Total population of the region is about 500,000, with the Shia-majority city of Parachinar home to 55,000. Parachinar and the agency were predominantly Shia until a large influx of Sunnis started with the US-Russia war in Afghanistan, when the Mujahideen used it to raid Afghanistan. With the rise in Sunni numbers, there was also a rise in sectarian violence, but this it seems was qualitatively and quantitatively at far lower levels than what was to come.
The media in Pakistan has been accused of not providing adequate coverage to the event. According to Press TV:
A recent summit held in Iranian city of Qom under the banner “Holocaust of Shias in Parachinar,” came in the wake of the killings of hundreds of Shia community-members over the past six months in Parachinar and Hangu.
Pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants, who are reportedly behind the killings, have imposed an economic blockade against the Shia-dominated population areas.
Ammar Faheem at Ammar 360 is dismayed at the silence of the media as he terms the event a ‘Holocaust against Shia's':
We all have been receiving pictures of beheaded bodies and acts of barbarianism from both Sunni and Shia friends. We all know that dozens of people are violently subjugated to sectarian hatred everyday in this once beautiful tribal area of Pakistan.
What I fail to understand is that the media is absolutely silent on this issue of enormous importance. Where is the justice we talk about? Where are the voices who stand up for human rights? Or are they busy organizing concerts and fashion shows?
The Blogosphere has resolved to take the matter into their hands and spread the word. The media has so far stood silent on the massacre. Further silence on the issue can lead to worsening of the situation and break out of sectarian clashes. The hollers of the victim’s family shouldn’t go unheard. The Blogging community joins hand in hope that their voices will be heard.
In one of my own articles at Pro-Pakistan, I proposed a petition urging people from other sects to join hands with the humanitarians to drive attention to the crisis at hand:
For decades innocent lives have been taken on account of their beliefs. No one has the right to punish anyone for their beliefs. It is not for us to judge others in matters of religion. For once we should condemn those who act like God in their ways and kill people. The silence of media authorities is condemnable. However this shouldn’t stop us from spreading the word. I urge all those in the Blogosphere to spread the word on the blog. You can repost or link back but keep spreading the word.
Our Shia brothers have equal rights to exist and believe. The Muslim majority respects co-existence. We condemn those who justify their actions in the name of Islam. For Islam teaches us tolerance and Unity.
A campaign blog titled Support Parachinar has been put up to highlight the pleas with suggestions and ways to help:
Educate yourselves and people around you about the situation.
Organize prayers, vigils, and workshops in your localities (school campus, public libraries, Friday prayers, mosques and community centers, embassies and press clubs). Prepare large posters with images and concise information.
Write op-ed columns and letters to your local and national newspapers with an informed perspective. Also write to your governments and local and international human rights groups. Hold poster and letter writing sessions in your communities.
The land dubbed as Pakistan’s heaven by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ex-prime minister of Pakistan and founder of PPP -the party currently in Power) has been transferred into the valley of death. The Global community needs to be aware of the situation and address the pleas of the silent victims of the Taliban brutality.
Its unfortunate the people of parachinar are suffering from last 2 years & there is no one to hear their voices, though we have witnessed the chnage of Govt in Pakistan from military to rule of democracy but apart from fasle promises & some silly comments by Pakistani higher authorities specially pakistan interior miniter, nothing has been done. The only road leading to parachinar is closed for last 2 years & no action what so ever has been taken. I am hearing lot about swat & people from malakand division & whole pakistani media attention is fixed there as they are suffering from few weeks,but I yet to hear anything about the people of parachinar who are sufffering from last 2 years,despite reports in news that on daily basis the children & elderly are dying due to non provision of medicine.Are the people of parachinar are not human?OR they dont deserve any attention or carer? if the govt cant do any thing then they should at least have the stomach to say that they are hopeless & impotent so people may stop hoping from imcompetent rulers.
Thanks for raising the voice of people of parachinar!
It is good to see this issue raised at this forum, Sana. For long lasting peace in the area, I believe the government and all its agencies need to commit themselves to the purpose whole-heartedly.
What we have suffered from, and are now witnessing, is a result of half-hearted efforts that resulted in prolonged, inefficient military and diplomatic efforts.
Let us hope the current military operation roots out all such elements that have brought a bad name to Pakistan. Military success now will also send a strong signal to the external forces involved in encouraging such elements.
This is an effort worth appreciation. Thank you, Sana.
@ Ammar: Thank you for your appreciations and many thanks to you for helping spread the word about the petition. We need to ensure that the enemy doesn’t fall into the false illusion that sectarian differences can prevent us from speaking for our Muslim brothers. We need to take this matter further. And rekindle the spirit of a nation and an ummah. High time we should do something worthwhile!
@ Kassim: Thanks for pointing out some facts, this matters needs to be raised. Inshallah will try and highlight it wherever possible!. Please take a momment to sign the petition and help spread the word
lol sorry its meant to be @kaiser ! many apologies!
Dear Sana Saleem
Thank you for raising Parachinar issue and creating a very good forum. I would like to clarify that the issue was and is never sectarian and the terms Shia and Sunni usually overshadow the real crises. The terrorists or insurgents tried their best to taint the issue as sectarian to stimulate some locals to join their force and also avail the sympathy of religious elements in Pakistani security forces or intelligence agencies.
The real story goes back to the decade of eighty when Peshawar became the center and base of AQ and different fanatics groups were created giving them different agendas. Kurram Parachinar is the nearest point towards Kabul from Pakistani boarder and British rulers of India used this route in 2nd Anglo Afghan war in 1878 to reach Kabul. The same was the agenda of Gulbudin Hekmatyar in eighties to capture Parachinar and establish government in exile there. The elements in Pakistani intelligence agencies were fully involved but the brave local defended their land sacrificing a lot. .Then these elements and agencies changed their way of action and by using a lonely mosque in Parachinar to make it a base of outlawed sectarian groups like SSP LJ and LT etc. This place became a transit camp for terrorists from south Punjab Kashmir and even non Pakistani to reach AQ training camps in Afghanistan. This was the time when beauty of Parachinar was spoiled and the city became a hub of terrorists threatening locals and peaceful atmosphere. The most sensitive topic is sectarianism and this mosque was converted into a forte full of terrorists spreading hate and supplying dangerous weapons not only locally but their network extended to other cities near by.
9/11 changed geopolitical situation of the area and all those terrorists of outlawed sectarian groups converted into Taliban force. Their center in Parachinar became a focus point and base to launch attacks on allied forces in Afghanistan. This was not in the interest of locals and resistance was created by Turis. The brave Turis who are always vigilant about the situation succeeded to overpower and demolish this base. The terrorists re established their base in lower parts of Kurram and blocked the only road linking Parachinar with the rest of country. Now this part of FATA is the new heaven and safe zone for all terrorists including those sectarian groups from south Punjab locally known as Punjabi Taliban. There are Arabs Uzbeks Afghans and lot more in this area. This is strange that Pakistani government has ignored this area. They are the same Taliban fighting in Swat with army. In Swat they are called either miscreants or antistatic insurgents fighting against the state but in Kurram the issue is labeled as sectarian and the warriors are not insurgents but are called Jehadis. Their leader is same Baitullah or his lieutenant who are bad gays in Waziristan and good in Kurram. This is because the Parachinar issue was projected as sectarian and the ground realities were ignored intentionally.
There is genocide but due to sectarian label responsible authorities are behaving differently. There is a real humanitarian crisis but media is projecting it as an issue between two sects. The forces of international coalition fighting against terrorism stationed in Afghanistan are watching Parachinar on political angle involving and doubting Iranian interest. Pakistani security forces are looking with bigoted eyes having sympathy with the oppressors not the oppressed. Afghan National government is observing Kurram keeping in view historical facts and background. If you look the Iranian official response they always talk about unity among sects but on the bases of their own interest, though there are some none states groups or individuals thinking otherwise. No one is talking about the links and resources of these terrorists inside or outside the country.
I request not only you but all those who show sympathy with our cause to help us by projecting the issue not on sectarian bases keeping in mind the mentioned facts. This is total insurgency and they have challenged the government writ by blocking road and their agenda is the same as all over the FATA.Our students have lost 2 academic years and employment sector badly affected. Our only source is agriculture and our cash crops like tomatoes and fruits are destroyed. Business community is deprived of import and exports. Our only hospital is empty and patients are dying even without first aid. The situation is worse than Darfour or Ghaza but all around are deaf ears.
Abid thankyou for giving an insight on the situation in Parachinar. Personally I dont believe in sects and I fully agree that this shia sunni tag has cost us a lot. This was the very reason that I created a petition on behalf of the entire Muslim Community. I myself believe this to be a war against Islam and its principles and not a sectarian issue.
However I believe that people like me who don’t belong to the same sect suffering should be active in spreading the word to help kill all doubts regarding sectarian bias.
Really appreciate your detailed insight ! thankyou for enlightening us all ! :)
A very useful article giving insight to the situation in Para Chinar.
Thankyou Mubashir am Glad you liked it !
dears in parachinar the people are facing very difficult situation and in 3 weeks 41 children are died because the shortage of medicine and people are going to Peshawar throw Afghanistan and the area had been under siege since 3 years by the Taliban.
Dear Ms. Saleem,
First of all congratulations on doing such a great job of planting the seeds of awareness in the hearts of so many that sectarianism is self defeating. It is true religion does not corrupt people but its the people who corrupt religion.
I appluad you for taking a worthy stand against the atrocities in Para Chinar. My heart too bleeds for innocent men, women, & children who are being killed indiscriminantly. How do we break the cycle of this ugly voilence? Its important that the vicious cycle of violence & disregard for human life must cease to exist in our heads first, so that we can prepare ourselves to teach the next generation to think positively, & to produce the friuts of peace & prosperity in this land of incrediable beauty.
I’m so glad that woman like yourself is taking such a great step to educate people that “kill or be killed” attitude is selfdestruct. What we believe to be good & moral for ourselves must also translate well into treating others. True, we don’t live in a perfect world but we can atleast take some baby steps towards peaceful existance with each other. We must adorne ourselves with “agree to disagree” attitude, & thereby let our ornaments of humanity shine through. This dark ages mentality is not going to serve anyone; taliban, sunni, or shia. Parents continue to teach our children well. Only they hold the key to peaceful future.