Inside Parachinar Today
A community under siege in tribal Pakistan
As US prepares troop withdrawal, Taliban's strong hold on border regions reveals Pakistan's vulnerability
Mujib Mashal , AlJazeera, 25 Jun 2011
Parachinar, in Pakistan's tribal north west, remains under siege. The only road connecting this district bordering Afghanistan to the rest of Pakistan has been blocked by Taliban fighters since 2007.
The blockade was briefly lifted in March, or so the Pakistani government proudly announced. The road was open again and travellers would be protected, they said. Owais, a 25-year-old recent graduate of engineering, was one of the few who took the risk and decided to visit his family.
On March 25, his Toyota Hiace and two other vans were stopped on the Thal-Parachinar road by Taliban fighters. Owais and 44 others were kidnapped.
The Taliban freed the women and children, but killed seven - some claim ten - of the abducted passengers. A further 30 men remained in captivity for close to three months.
After protracted negotiations between tribal elders, the Pakistani government, and varying Taliban factions, 22 of the captives were set free on June 21. Owais was one of the lucky ones.
"They have been handed to the government forces of the Frontier Corps and are on their way home," a friend of Owais told Al Jazeera.
Reports suggest the Taliban were paid a ransom of at least 30 million rupees, roughly $350,000. Eight men remain in captivity. And the road, though no longer described as "blocked", still remains highly insecure.
In his speech this week announcing the military transition in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama once again emphasised Pakistan's crucial role in combating extremism.
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More misery in Kurram — Dr Mohammad Taqi - Daily Times, March 2, 2011
For how long will Parachinar humanitarian crisis persist? - Mumtaz Alvi, The News, June 21, 2011
Unrest ignored: After adults fail, children try to melt hearts of stone - Express Tribune, June, 2011
A Haqqani-brokered peace in Kurram agency? - Daud Khattak, Foreign Policy, February, 2011
Picture source: Express Tribune
Additional Recommended Links for Researchers:
The Haqqani Network in Kurram Agency - Critical Threats Org, 2011
Sectarian Violence in Kurram Agency - PSRU, Bradfor University, 2008
Militancy and Conflict in Kurram Agency: The Battle for Pakistan - New America Foundation, 2010
Shiism and Sectarian Conflict in Pakistan - CTC West Point, 2011