In Kurram Agency, Taliban peril ricochets in the hearts of students

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Saturday, 01 October 2011

shiitenews kuram talibanImtiaz Ali, a student, was recently set free by the Taliban after payment of a heavy ransom. On his return, Ali told his ordeal and the Taliban conspiracies that aimed at destroying the future of students in the tribal belts. The information was no news to the militancy-hit region, where students who once held books and pens, are now becoming acquainted with gunpowder and explosives to save themselves from the atrocities of the Taliban in the absence of any action by the government.

Ali said he was kidnapped from the Lower Kurram Agency, on his way back to Parachinar from Peshawar. He had gone to prepare some important documents during his vacation in March, and fell in the Taliban stronghold. “They kept repeating to me that there is no benefit of education, if I wanted salvation for myself and my parents in the hereafter, I should serve Islam and I could achieve my religious goals by training as a suicide bomber.”

Ali stated that the Taliban informed him that the Turi Bangash tribes would not be spared as they were fighting against them and not giving them access to the route that led to Afghanistan for them to continue their activities; the roads will remain blocked, the kidnapping and killings would not stop.

“Those days were worse than hell for me, the Taliban would threaten to butcher me if the ransom was not paid, they would wave a sharp knife in front of my eyes to drive their point home,” the terrified student added, urging the authorities to put an end to the bloodshed that is being carried out in the name of war against terrorism, to change their policies and to shoulder the responsibility of bringing peace to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

“When I came to know that the government and the Grand Tribal Jirga had announced peace agreement in February and opened the Thal-Parachinar Road to traffic, I was very happy,” said Ali. He stated that students from Fata are equally patriotic, they want to serve the country and prove that having a tribal origin does not automatically classify you as a terrorist.

During an address in Islamabad, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Barrister Masood Kousar said “Fata has accepted Pakistan, but Pakistan has not accepted Fata, we need to give serious thought to making Pakistan’s future bright, which is not possible by failing to control the situation in Fata.”

Ali’s tale is only one of many who have been caught and exposed to the harsher reality of the extremists’ threat in our midst. The agency, which once had an education ratio equal to Islamabad and Peshawar, has been in the grip of terror for the past five years; attaining knowledge shrunk to a dream for these tribal students who were either kidnapped or killed if they tried to venture to the bigger cities for the purpose.

The ones who paid were set free by the perpetrators, the ones who could not were either burnt alive and butchered — the unfortunate parents of some could not even get a last look at their sons as their bodies could not be identified. Qaiser Hussain, an MSc student, has been in the custody of Talibans, who are demanding a ransom of Rs1.2 million for his release, heightening the local tribes’ worries.

All of (Fata) and in particular Kurram Agency has been hit hard by terrorists. All walks of life have been affected, but the educational system has suffered the most at the hands of the widespread terror by the Taliban of the region. Students enrolled in higher educational institutes in Parachinar are now being trained by the Taliban for suicide bombings.

Kurram Agency, which not only had the highest education ratio but also more female students than males, has been pushed back many years by shortage of local teaching staff, who have been recieving salaries at home since the past five years.

A wave of relief went through the agency after the July 4 operation this year in Central Kurram. But all hopes were dashed as the government ended the operation on August 18, announcing that they had achieved their targets. The Thal-Parachinar Road remains blocked. The Talibans continue to hold onto their check-posts in the Lower Kurram Agency, while communication between Parachinar and rest of the country is almost abandoned as the locals take the alternative dangerous route through Afghanistan for travel to Peshawar.

By Naseer Hussain

The writer is a journalist based in Parachinar, Kurram Agency.

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