SECTARIAN terrorism returned to the volatile Kurram Agency on Friday when over 30 people were killed in a suspected suicide attack in a Parachinar market. Among the dead were protesters the security forces reportedly fired upon following the explosion. The incident has severely jolted the fragile government-backed peace accord that has held between the area’s Shia and Sunni populations. Normality was slowly returning to the neglected region and displaced families from both communities had begun to return to their native areas. The arterial Thall-Parachinar road, which was reopened in October last year after several years of closure due to militant attacks, has been closed indefinitely. Though the road was still largely unsafe for civilians, traffic had been running as people had no choice, considering it is the only viable route connecting the region with the rest of Pakistan.
There are quite a few unanswered questions about this incident. Firstly, how could a bomber sneak past the considerable security presence in the area?
It is also unacceptable that security forces fired on protesters when effective non-lethal methods of crowd control exist. And while militant Fazal Saeed, who leads his own faction of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack because “the Shia community of Parachinar were involved in activities against us”, many are circumspect about this claim.
Though Saeed is a notorious militant, other factors need to be considered and the bombing needs to be investigated, as the mainstream TTP’s involvement — which is at odds with the Saeed faction — cannot be ruled out. The bombing may have been the result of intra-militant feuds and the Fazal Saeed claim may be a false flag. Whoever is responsible must be brought to justice and militants of all stripes in Kurram need to be eliminated. As we have said before, it is the state’s responsibility — specifically that of the security forces — to keep the Thall-Parachinar road open and safe for travel and to neutralise the militants.
Unfortunately, the security establishment has failed miserably on all these counts, to the detriment of the people of Kurram. It needs to act now to prevent the resumption of sectarian violence in the agency.