On July 3, the 1st major and full fledged military operation was launched in the central region of Kurram agency resulting in yet another mass exodus from FATA. So far, more than 4000 families from Masozai, Alisherzai, and Zeemusht areas of Central Kurram have been displaced as a result of this operation. The deteriorating security situation in the region is forcing many more people to relocate to other safe places.
The Corps commander of Peshawar had hinted a month earlier that army would launch an operation in Kurram tribal region against militants. But the operation was delayed as 33 passengers, belonging to Shia sect, who were abducted by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from Thall-Parachinar road on March 25, were still in the custody of their captors. The security forces deemed it vital to secure safe release of the kidnapped passengers before launching the operation. The operation was launched on July 4, three weeks after Taliban released all the kidnapped passengers. According to local sources Rs 60 million were paid to Taliban as ransom to free the abducted people.
Another major development in the region was rift in the ranks of Kurram Taliban. Fazal Saeed Haqqani, a militant commander from Bagan village on Thall-Parachinar Road, parted ways with TTP and formed his own group with the name of Tehrik-i-Taliban Islami (TTI). Split in TTP was crucially important for the success of operation. It is strongly expected that TTI under Fazal Saeed Haqqani will not attack the Shia passengers on Thall-Parachinar road, which is under his control. It is also unlikely that TTI will attack security forces.
The TTP had control over 80 percent area of Central Kurram, bordering Orakzai and Khyber agencies but it had less footing in the rest of the administrative units of the region i.e. Upper Kurram and Lower Kurram. About 80 percent population of Upper Kurram belongs to Shia sect while Lower Kurram is dominated by Sunnis. The Central Kurram is 100 percent Sunni area. Both security forces and newly-formed TTI have presence in Lower Kurram.
The army has chosen 80 square kilometers, about 90 percent area, of Central Kurram for the operation. The codename of the operation is ‘Koh-i-Safaid’, the name of a famous mountain in Kurram. On the first day of operation army claimed to have taken control of more than 40 square kilometers area with no resistance as the militants had already vacated it. So far security forces are targeting militant hideouts with artillery and helicopters.
The Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) was informed on July 4 that operation against militants had been launched in Central Kurram. As per initial assessment of FDMA, it is expected that approx. 5,000 families will be displaced in the wake of the military action. The authority has requested UN agencies to support government in helping the affected population. In this regard, a UN DSS mission will be conducted as it is an obligatory requirement for UN agencies to operate. However, UNHCR has provided 200 tents and Non Food Items (NFIs) to be immediately dispatched to the new camp, established for the displaced persons. According to officials, about 517 families have been registered at the Durrani camp in Sadda. The camp has the capacity to accommodate more than 1,500 families. In the initial stage the provincial government is providing some relief to the IDPs at the newly established camp.
Many IDPs have found it easy to enter Hangu district instead of going to Durrani camp. They have not yet been given the facilities, which other IDPs displaced within Kurram are enjoying. Most IDPs are scared and concerned about their houses and properties. Many of them either live with their relatives or in rented houses in Hangu and Kurram. Those, who opt for camps, belong to poor class and cannot afford to live in rented houses.
According to FDMA around 4,000 families have arrived in Sadda town but out of them only 517 families have registered themselves at the camp while the rest of them have taken shelter with their relatives and friends in the nearby villages. The FDMA fears that more than 8,000 families will be displaced due to the ongoing military operation.
According to some media reports that “United Nations has requested the federal government to facilitate its mission to visit Kurram Agency to assess situation and begin humanitarian services but government has denied access to UN agencies as it cannot assure them of foolproof security for their staffers in the conflict-hit region. The UN agencies are still waiting for security conditions to improve and start working there. The government says that it cannot take any risk by allowing the UN staff to visit the region in the prevailing security conditions.
So in the light of these reports doubts have surfaced about the provincial government and FDMA’s ability to handle the situation on their own without the help of UN agencies. It is also not clear that for how long the operation will continue? The FDMA already has its hands full as it is looking after 123,750 registered displaced families from different areas of Fata. The displacement from Kurram will increase its burden manifold. The IDPs of Khyber, Bajaur, Mohmand and South Waziristan agencies are still facing a lot of problems in camps and outside camps.
The elders of Khyber agency, during a press conference recently, expressed grave concern over the problems of IDPs from their area. They said that IDPs were faced with numerous problems owing to non-availability of basic facilities of life. They said that many children and women had fallen prey to different disease due to the extremely hot weather but there were no proper health facilities for them.“There is no arrangement for provision of electricity in the camps. Children are deprived of education in the absence of schools,” they complained.
The field reporter of FRC has filed a report, highlighting that the same problems were also being faced by Kurram’s IDPs. “The weather is very hot and there is no arrangement for electric fans due to which IDPs are suffering from different diseases but there are no treatment facilities for them,” the report said.
Keeping in view these problems, the government should come up with a proper workable plan to provide basic facilities to IDPs besides providing security to UN agencies so that they can begin relief activities in the area. The army should also try to achieve their target as soon as possible to make repatriation of Kurram IDPs before Ramazan