Parachinar once used to be called ‘a paradise on Earth’. Despite its natural beauty and strategic importance, Parachinar NOW is in a dire strait due to sectarian violence initially instigated by the negative policies of former president Ziaul Haq. The residents of Parachinar predominantly Shia, are the target of sectarian extremism and this has been the primary cause of clashes there. This violence has transformed the once beautiful land into ruins, completely destroying infrastructure. The main road connecting Peshawar to Parachinar is blocked by sectarian extremists who brutally kill travellers to and from Parachinar. Local people have been forced to travel through dangerous routes via Afghanistan and back into Peshawar just to purchase daily rations and essential items. Today, even that route has been closed, effectively cutting them off from the rest of Pakistan.
PARACHINAR: FROM PARADISE TO HELL [OF EXTREMISM]
by Riaz Ali Toori
Parachinar, the paradise like valley of Pakistan is very significant due to its strategic location. Bordering Afghanistan, lying in the upper part of Kurram Agency in the FATA, 250 km west of Islamabad, , Parachinar is blessed with immense natural beauty.
People here are friendly and eager to acquire knowledge. There are good opportunities as well as encouragement for females aspiring for education. Each year students in hundreds leave the town for other cities of Pakistan in pursuit of basic academic and professional education. A good many youth of Parachinar are presently studying in differend Cadet, Medical, and Engineering universities all across the country.
Remarkably, there are no restrictions, usually in existence in the tribal society that we have here in the borderlands of Pakistan. Women’s education is patronized by parents who feel very proud when their daughters achieve a mark of distinction in education.
in Parachinar there is only one Degree College for men and one for women and nearly 270 primary, 30 secondary and 32 high schools excluding a number of private schools and colleges.
Since the main source of income is farming on very small scale, gardening and natural resource utilizations, therefore, a large section of people from Parachinar have gone abroad, especially to the Middle East for better livelihood which has assured them in return a comparatively decent and modern standard of living.
Back home most of our people prefer government service and a large portion of the youth have been commissioned in Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force. Qualified doctors and engineers from Parachinar are in hundreds, who are serving in different hospitals and departments all around the country and abroad. Unfortunately, this friendly and happy environment has been shattered by some illegitimate émigrés with the help of a few devilish folk in our town.
Despite its natural beauty, talent of people and its strategic importance, Parachinar is presently in dire strait due to sectarian brutality originated through the politico-religious-militant policies of the former dictator Zia-ul-Haq. The people of FATA will never forgive that dictator for converting their earthly paradise into hell. Prior to Zia-ul-Haq’s war against the former Soviet Union in the name of Jihad, our people were much happy with their simple and strong but peaceful way of life. Gen Zia snatched from us tribesmen, the right of living in peace, self-respect and happiness. It was so terrific for our families who per force were dislocated from different parts of FATA and live in IDP camps, making their women and children beg for food, shelter and clothing.
All this was done by the late dictator in the name of a holy war against the USSR, pushing our simple tribal folk into war and our children forcefully trained as militants. He never thought once that these militants, these so-called holy warriors against the USSR would turn on their own people one day satiating their lust of extremism by killing their own co-religionists and that too in the name of being a follower of a sect different than theirs.
The worst a state can do is to subject its citizens to war either against an enemy or an organization, although it is the responsibility of the state to secure its borders and protect its territory by itself rather than by citizens. Citizens of any state primarily contribute in the well-being of the state by paying taxes and respecting the law and constitution of the country.
The residents of Parachinar are largely Shia Toori tribe, who have been the target of Jihadi atrocities, the sole cause of sectarian clashes in the area. These clashes have turned the once beautiful land into ruins, haunting human life there. The main road, the Tall-Parachinar link connecting Parachinar to the rest of country has been blocked by terrorists. This has caused the local merchants to gouge the prices up to ten times of even basic staple foods such as flour, ghee, sugar and rice. The younger residents of Parachinar are worst off. With the lack of basic education, the land is being thrown, back into the dark ages. Most of the schools in our area have been destroyed by terrorists’ attacks.
Once in a while when the road opens for a few days or a week, kidnapping, slaughtering and killing the travelers immediately becomes rife. As a result the people of Parachinar are now besieged within their area and with the lack of daily and much needed rations they are passing through a state of angst and uncertainty.
In recent few years dozens of blasts, rocket attacks, gunship fires, and kidnappings have taken place. Resultantly there is hardly a family in Parachinar that has not lost a beloved one in this ongoing state of imposed terrorism. The people of Parachinar are now killed, slaughtered, kidnapped and their dead bodies mutilated after slaughtering and killing. Recently those abducted were later killed and then their dead bodies set on fire. All victims were below 35 years in age. Some were also married who left behind widows and orphans while others who were engaged left their fiancés with unfulfilled dream of having their hands colored with brilliant red henna.
Luckily, despite this difficult situation the teachers of Parachinar with the help of locals are busy in educating their pupils as a result of which the students have scored exceptionally well in recent Matric and BA/BSc exams. This year again thousands of students, both girls and boys, passed the Matric exam with excellent results, same was the case of BA/BSc examinees.
On this Eid, students in thousands went to Parachinar to celebrate moments of happiness with their families, but they are now wedged in Parachinar due to blockade of the road. Out of utter frustration they are daily holding protests in Parachinar city and insisting the government to either take them safely to Peshawar or open the road for them so they can go to their universities and colleges to continue their studies.
All this is forcing the locals to agitate against government inside Parachinar and in different other cities of Kurram Agency. If media and Human Rights organizations continued to ignore the crisis in Parachinar, it would become the most dangerous zone of human rights violations in the world.
In particular, its more hurting for those who want to see a stable, progressive, peaceful and united Pakistan when they see that the local tribesmen have started losing their faith in the political set up of Pakistan, including all the state agencies and even Pakistan Army as well, as all have totally failed to provide security to their lives and their livelihoods.
It has been on the very next day of Eid ul Fitr, at a condolence gathering for the seven martyrs of Parachinar, who were mercilessly killed for no fault of their own, that the people strongly expressed their heartfelt grievance over the killings, but simultaneously showed their grave anger, disappointment and frustration over apathy shown by the federal government and its institutions.
Now the people are thinking on the line that it is not our State and its agencies do not want peace in Parachinar. Such thinking in the area, where not a single case of attack on government officials has ever been reported is highly dangerous. On the other hand, history is witness to the fact that the people of Kurram Agency have always fought in the service of Pakistan and are more patriotic than any one else in the country. This thinking has also highly dangerous connotations as it offers a fertile ground to those who do want to destabilize our country.
I was horrified to listen to views of the people in Parachinar when they said that they are so much fed up of the ongoing slaughter of their men, women and children that they are now thinking to give up their faith in Pakistan as their women, children, honour, lives and property are not safe in the country.
A number of people were of the opinion to appeal to the UN and some countries to accept them as their prefecture and give them security of life.
Its in such situation that this writer earnestly appeals to the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan that its high time now to end this horrific war at any cost and provide the much-needed security to the Agency, whose people are proud and patriotic nationals of Pakistan. The Pakistan Army must take fierce action against the extremists / terrorists to make the area safe and peaceful before our enemies take the advantage of the worst situation to stimulate an agitation and mutiny against the State of Pakistan.
Riaz Ali Toori is a journalist from Parachinar.
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