Death arrives out of the blue for 14-yr old

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Ongoing strife in Bara has left numerous dead and scores injured: Bara tehsildar says jirgas being held to restore peace

By Muhammad Shahid

KHYBER AGENCY: Faisal, a 14-year old student of class nine, is up and about early in the morning to offer Fajr prayers, unaware of what will happen to him in a flash – a stray mortar shell hits him at his home in Bara tehsil and he later dies at a hospital.

Faisal’s father Haji Muhammad Ibrahim cannot stop crying while narrating the saga of his son’s death. “My son’s death is an irreparable loss to my family. His (Faisal’s) mother has been hospitalised because she could not withstand the shock,” sobbed the 43-year-old Ibrahim who also complained that not a single government functionary came to his home to condole with him.

Ibrahim also critricised the role of political authorities and the NWFP governor in restoring peace to the agency. “The NWFP governor and the political administration know what have been going on in the agency for the last several years, but why are they not taking action to protect innocent tribesmen who are not siding with any of the groups,” he told Daily Times.

On April 2, 2007 two religious groups – Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and Ansarul Islam (AI) both belonging to the Deobandi school of thought – began fighting each other in Arjali Naddi near Bara. The groups used heavy weapons and several mortar shells fell in residential areas … one of which hit Faisal who later succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

Now a days, Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency is hitting the headlines due to continuing violence between two rival religious groups. Earlier, two groups – the one led by Mufti Munir Shakir and the other by Pir Saifur Rehman – were engaged in a bloody battle. However, tribal elders, in collaboration with the political administration, held jirgas to bring about reconciliation between the two warring groups. A series of jirgas were organised by the Afridi tribes, which forced Mufti Munir and Pir Saifur Rehman to leave Bara. As the two leaders left, two other groups, Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansarul Islam, emerged in Bara and began fighting each other. So far, the clashes between LI and AI men have left numerous people dead and many injured in various areas including Gugrina, Tirah and Bara.

Khyber is one of the seven tribal agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and is the most important area in the sense that the main artery connecting Peshawar to Kabul goes via the Khyber Pass. Bara and Landikotal are two subdivisions within the Agency; the former is closer to Peshawar and hosts the famous market for foreign and smuggled goods. (Even those markets elsewhere in Pakistan that sell goods from here are known as Bara markets). Khyber Agency tribesmen feel insecure due to the ongoing bloodshed in the area, because they think they are paying for something they have not done. The family members of the deceased Faisal have demanded that President General Pervez Musharraf take notice of the increasing unrest and lawlessness in Bara and provide tribesmen with protection.

Khyber Agency Political Agent Amirud Din was not available for comment, and Bara political tehsildar told Daily Times that jirgas were being held to restore peace to the area and that the Bara political administration would take action against those taking law into their own hands.

 “We will also decide on the compensation, which should be paid to the families of those killed innocent during the crossfire. “

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