Warring Kurram tribesmen wary Pak military's hand behind Haqqani group mediation

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Islamabad, Oct 21 (ANI): That the Haqqani network has entered the Kurram peace talks between warring sectarian tribes, trying to play the peace broker, should be good news for locals, but they are rather wary of the fact that its involvement may not be possible without the approval of the Pakistani military.

People of the violence-wracked Kurram are apprehensive of the aims of the mediators, as they are not only scared of the insurgents involved in fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also because they think that the involvement of the Haqqanis may not be possible without the tacit approval of the military, which is reported to enjoy links with this group of Afghan militants, the Dawn reported.

Such suspicions gain credence against the backdrop of reports that members of the Haqqani clan had visited Peshawar and Islamabad for the talks.

The entry of the Haqqanis in the Kurram peace talks, which date back to 2007, has surprised many. After all, the network is usually mentioned in terms of its war theatre in Afghanistan and its base in North Waziristan, from where the US has been pressurising the government for months to dislodge the group, the paper said.

Khalil and Ibrahim, sons of the network's founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, have reportedly been meeting tribal elders from Kurram in Peshawar and Islamabad to end the hostilities between the local tribes and bring peace to the area, which has witnessed some of the worst clashes in its history over the past three years, it added.

The last round of talks was held in Islamabad on Oct 10. "They first turned up at a meeting held in Peshawar in the first week of September," a tribal elder revealed.

Another elder corroborated this account, and added that the two brothers were also present at the second meeting in the provincial capital on September 16, and then at a subsequent one in Islamabad.

It is expected that elders and mediators will put their heads together in the next few days yet again to ensure sustainable peace in the area.

However, the Haqqanis' interest is not linked to the welfare of the residents of Kurram, but to the tribal agency's strategic position, the paper said.

The most important agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Kurram borders Afghanistan's Khost province in the south, Paktia in the southwest and Nangarhar in the north, while Kabul is 90 kilometres west of Parachinar.

The Haqqani network is active in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni and Wardak, which is close to Kabul. And especially as Waziristan has become vulnerable for the network in the wake of frequent US drone attacks, the group is desperate to find safe locations outside the agency.

Kurram would prove ideal for them, and that is why they are trying to reconcile with the tribes in its lower and upper parts, the paper said.

However, the Haqqanis are not the first to find Kurram's proximity to Afghanistan attractive. In fact, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all major groups of 'Mujahideen' had bases in this area, it added. (ANI)

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