Pakistan, true to its word, moved against the Haqqani Network of the Afghan Taliban on Sunday. Tragically, it lost four soldiers to exploding landmines near the Kewra checkpost in the Kurram tribal agency: one officer and three Frontier Corps personnel. According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) the martyred men were “looking for accomplices of the men that kidnapped a Canadian-American family rescued by Pakistan Army on Thursday.”
When the kidnappers entered Pakistan, an official American source conveyed their movement to the Pakistani side. According to Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, security personnel got him and his family sprung from militant custody with ISI troops standing “like a wall” between his family and the killers. After that the Haqqani terrorists escaped and were pursued by Pakistani soldiers.
The four tragic deaths have immediately resulted in a thaw between Pakistan and the United States, which often accuses Pakistan of providing safe haven to the Haqqanis striking in Afghanistan from across the Durand Line. Pakistan has moved against them in North Waziristan as part of the Radd al-Fasad Operation conducted by Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Following the latest incident in Kurram Agency, Pakistan has shifted its hunt for the Haqqani killers to new territory. Kurram has access to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa through the Parachinar-Hangu-Kohat road often subject to Shia-killing. The majority community of Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram, is Shia and needs protection after being barred from passing through this road to Peshawar. And it is not comforting to know that the Haqqani Network moved from North Waziristan to Kurram in 2010.
The Haqqanis have killed Pakistani troops and cannot be allowed to dominate a sensitive territory already riven with sectarian violence. The Shia of Parachinar allowed the Haqqanis in after the latter pledged they would end the decades-old sectarian mayhem carried on despite the presence of the Pakistan Army there. Although Pakistani warlord Fazlullah claims that it was his IEDs that killed the four Pakistani troops, the Haqqani presence in Kurram must be ended unless their “occupation” of Pakistani territory is to be tolerated in the face of international protest.