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Pakistan mulls sending army to Parachinar to stop deadly Shia Sunni clashes

Radicalisation and sectarian conflict on the rise in Pakistan

After six days of clashes with heavy weapons resulting in 11 deaths, Pakistan is thinking of sending in the army and paramilitary forces to the Parachinar area in the tense province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province that lies on the  restive border with Afghanistan, has asked Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to send in the army and bring an end to the Shia-Sunni conflict, reports Dawn.

On the other hand, The News International reports that troops and the paramilitary personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC) have already been called out in the tense region.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced that nearly 30 members of the feuding tribes would be meeting on Wednesday to iron out differences between the tribes. However, the earlier ceasefire agreements have failed miserably with deadly fights continuing with rockets and missiles.

Firefights between Shia and Sunni tribes over a land dispute have continued non-stop despite peace talks and calls for ceasefire. The minority Shia community in Pakistan has accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of imposing Sunni majoritarianism by completely ignoring the violence in Parachinar and not helping the besieged Shias.

Meanwhile, due to the sectarian tension, the Peshawar administration has imposed Section-144, leading to 25 different curbs in view of Muharram – which is observed mainly by the Shia Muslims. This is further bound to alienate the Shia community in Pakistan.

The clashes erupted on July 7, Friday, on the same day on which the Pakistani government was busy mobilising people for a nationwide protest against the burning of a Quran in Sweden. Meanwhile the Shia-Sunni clashes continued till July 11 with the reported involvement of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) from across the Afghanistan border.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Faisal Karim Kundi urged Prime Minister Sharif to intervene and end the conflict on the Af-Pak border before it leads to a wider breakdown of law and order.

With the continuous battle between the Shias and Sunnis, the region, which has just one road going to the capital Peshawar has been blocked. Food, medicines and other essential items are running in short supply due to breakdown in connectivity.

Surprisingly, clashes broke out in Parachinar barely 10 days after Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir visited the area to celebrate Eid with Pakistani Army soldiers on the Af-Pak border in late June.