Upper, Central, and Lower Kurram -- each managed by an assistant political agent
Of the seven tribal agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Kurram Agency is unique and the most complex on many counts.
Kurram was part of Afghanistan until 1879. Hemmed in by Afghanistan from three sides, it is vulnerable to the fallout of the never-ending violence in the neighbouring country.
Kurram is the only tribal agency with a considerable Shia population, though the adjoining Orakzai Agency, too, has many Shias. The Turi tribe is 100 percent Shia while the Bangash is partly Shia.
It has three administrative units -- Upper Kurram, Central Kurram, and Lower Kurram -- each managed by an assistant political agent. The political agent sits in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency, and runs the administration with the help of the line departments and the Frontier Corps’ Kurram Militia, Kurram Levies and Khasadars.
Armed with vast administrative, judicial, and financial powers, the political agent is the pivot for every decision-making. However, the deployment of the army in Kurram Agency has curtailed the authority of the political agent.
The assistant political agent for Upper Kurram also sits in Parachinar. The two other assistant political agents for Central Kurram and Lower Kurram have their offices in Sadda, the second major town in Kurram Agency. A number of tehsildars and naib tehsildars with their staff form the lower tiers of the administration.
The Sunni and Shia sects live in more or less compact administrative units. Upper Kurram is largely inhabited by the Shias, though some villages are populated by the Sunni tribes of Jaji (Zazi), Mangal, and Muqbil, etc. Lower Kurram is Sunni majority with a significant number of big Shia villages, such as Alizai. Central Kurram is overwhelmingly inhabited by Sunnis, including the Parachamkani, Alisherzai and Massozai tribes, and the Shia presence is negligible.
The Kurram Agency is well served by considerable number of security forces and law-enforcement personnel. The Kurram Militia has six platoons, totalling about 4,200 soldiers drawn from all the Pakhtun tribes and officers from the Pakistan army. The Kurram Levies has the strength of around 1,800 while the Khasadar force totals 822.
The Pakistan army troops are also deployed in Kurram Agency and their number is set to increase as per announcement by the Chief of Army Staff during his recent visit to Parachinar. Earlier, a lieutenant colonel used to head the force, then a brigadier was sent to Kurram Agency and now a major general would command the army troops.
One of the major casualties of the recent happenings was Colonel Omar Malik, commandant, Kurram Militia, who was removed following criticism by local elders that his men fired at protestors in the aftermath of the twin bombings in Parachinar and killed four men and injured several others. His removal was ordered by Pakistan Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, during his visit to Parachinar. This was one of the key demands of the protestors who had staged sit-in for eight days in Parachinar and refused to budge until the army chief or federal Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, paid them a visit and listened to their grievances.
Colonel Omar Malik had served as commandant of Kurram Militia, a wing of the Frontier Corps, for more than a year. Some reports said he was already under transfer, but it was hastened when the Parachinar firing incident happened and provoked the residents already angered by the bombings and insecurity.
Some of the protestors had directed their anger towards him and done wall chalking of "Colonel Omar Murdabad" near the Shaheed Park at the entrance to the Parachinar cantonment. It hadn’t been erased until the visit of Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, to Parachinar on July 4.