For the last two weeks, members of the Turi and Bangash tribes have been holding a sit-in in Upper Kurram Agency’s capital, Parachinar. Reportedly, the protesters are demanding the return of a cleric, Agha Nawaz Irfani, who heads the local mosque. The cleric has previously played an important role in successfully resisting Taliban control in the area. Other demands include the release of tribal elders recently arrested by security agencies, reopening of educational institutions, and replacement of political agent who is considered partisan as well as the stopping of governmental intervention in the affairs of the local mosque. As is the case with most events occurring in the region, the media coverage of the issue has been from minimal to non-existent. Perhaps this could be attributed to both the ‘sensitivity’ of the matter and lack of access for the mainstream media.

It is being alleged that the security forces are relocating members of the Haqqani network to Lower Kurram, and the turmoil in Parachinar has everything to do with it. While the rhetoric surrounding Operation Zarb-e-Azb may suggest that the military is no more in the business of discriminating between good Taliban and bad Taliban, reports coming in from the region including Kurram Agency show that it is not so. It is alleged that members of the Haqqani network – the good Taliban – were allowed to evacuate their bases in North Waziristan prior to the operation. According to local tribesmen, the militants are now being resettled in the areas of Muqbal, Shapo, Narai and Shalozan. This also explains why the military is taking keen interest in the ongoing dispute in Upper Kurram, and picking sides in accordance with its ‘plans’. This raises serious questions about Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policy. If the idea is to target only those who present an imminent threat to internal security, while accommodating the ‘good militants’ who are only interested in Afghanistan or India, then really, nothing has changed.

A duplicitous counter-terrorism policy, or playing a “double game” as our allies in the US like to call it, will continue to stand in the way of regional co-operation, which is the best way to contain the mess. Pakistan and its common citizens have paid a hefty price for the misadventures of the military. The strategies employed thus far have proven to be extremely counter-productive. They give the impression that the strategists responsible operate on the outrageous assumption that while they plot and execute, opposing parties will discover nothing, and even if they do, they will only watch in awe. But, the fact is that everyone plans, and they have reacted well. Our policies have backfired, and they will continue to create more problems unless revised. Will sanity ever prevail or will the lives of Pakistanis and others continue to be destroyed owing to grand ambitions and unwarranted insecurities?