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June 21, 2011

For how long will Parachinar humanitarian crisis persist?


June 21, 2011

­Scores of young kids (some of them orphans) and students studying in local colleges, belonging to an under siege locality staged a rally to draw the government attention to the seething humanitarian crisis in the Kurram Agency.
The people of Parachinar, who study or work in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar or elsewhere have been holding demonstrations and sit-ins in the capital city, but these failed to move those who matter. The protestors marched from the National Press Club to the Parliament House, braving extremely inhospitable weather. Drenched in perspiration, some of them carried water to quench their thirst: they continued their march towards the Parliament House, chanting slogans against militancy.
They paid tributes to slain journalist Saleem Shahzad, who through his articles had effectively highlighted the problems emanating from the Parachinar siege. The rally participants, mostly teenagers, requested the president and the prime minister to take notice of their plight and order the launch of a helicopter service and set up army check-posts at Tal-Parachinar Road so that they could reunite with their parents for summer vacation in Kurram Agency.
The militants had blocked the main roads to the region for the last four years triggering seemingly an unending misery. One of the students when asked why he was in the rally, he said all of them wanted to remind the Corps Commander Peshawar about his promise that within a month, the only road to Parachinar from Peshawar would be secured and the army check-posts be established on the Tal-Parachinar Road.
Mussarrat Hussain, who organised the rally, joined in the young kid’s talk with ‘The News’, and recalled Lieutenant General Asif Yaseen Malik during his visit to Kurram Agency last month had made this pledge to the locals: he had also hinted at a military operation there to flush out militants. These students included two souls, who had lost their close relatives to the

militants, who had kidnapped around 44 persons and 33 of them were still with them: they were kidnapped over two months back on their way to Parachinar; at least eight of them were brutally killed.
Mussarrat claimed they were also promised that those kidnapped would be recovered from the clutches of the militants. But unfortunately, there had been no progress so far, at least to their knowledge on this count as well. “This is the kids and students’ second rally within a month but it is agonising to mention here that no minister or even a government functionary visited us to express solidarity with the participants,” lamented Musarrat.
He pointed out that entire 0.5 million population was hit hard by the shortage of medicines and food items. He added the other day Shoaib Khan, 11, and Akhtar Ali died due to non-availability of medicines. “Many young children are suffering from chest infection, dysentery, pneumonia and fever and doctors appear helpless in the face of paucity of drugs, as the roads are closed and manned by the militants armed with sophisticated weapons.”
Another participant of the rally, who did not want to be named, said that the people of Parachinar widely believed they were being punished for resisting the militants entry into Kurram Agency, who wanted to take ‘charge’ of the region. He said that the militants made some of the rally participants orphans and these kids still carried grim memories of the day they were deprived of their fathers.

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