http://pakistan.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_pf/features/2019/02/06/feature-01
| Youth

Student trip to Tirah Valley sends message of peace, rehabilitation

By Muhammad Ahil

Pakistani military officials welcome students to the Tirah Valley February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil] 

Students from various colleges and high schools of Khyber tribal district play football on a snow covered field February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil]

Visiting students play football in the Tirah Valley February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil]

Students visiting the Tirah Valley take a selfie February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil] 

Students inspect an old Pakistani army machine gun on display as part of their visit to the Tirah Valley February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil]

A student writes "Pak Army" in the snow during his visit to the Tirah Valley February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil]

TIRAH -- Students visiting the remote, snow-clad Tirah Valley of Khyber District Monday (February 4) were treated to folk songs, traditional dances, delicious food and a football match -- a far cry from when militant groups controlled the area almost a decade ago.

Military commanders organised the visit, welcoming the high school and college students from Bara, Landi Kotal and other tribal areas. They accompanied the youth during a peace march throughout local villages as they hoisted the Pakistani flag and danced to folk songs.

"We are really happy to see the beauty of the scenic Tirah Valley for the first time, and we are thankful to the army, which made it possible to visit here," Shafiq Afridi, a college student from Bara, told Pakistan Forward.

Visiting tribal students play football in the Tirah Valley February 4. [Courtesy Muhammad Ahil]

"Life is back to normal," he said.

Junaid Afridi, who attends a government high school in Bara, said he had heard much about the beauty of the valley.

"I am here for the first time, and it is really a great tourist area," he told Pakistan Forward.

Benefits of peace are clear

Local residents have seen the benefits of peace.

The main Maidan Bagh mosque, closed for many years because of militancy, was reopened on January 25. Bazaars and businesses in the valley are regaining momentum as access roads open for traffic.

"The reopening of the Maidan mosque and the visits of Pakistanis to the tribal areas -- especially to the remote Tirah Valley -- represent a ray of hope for locals," Shah Jee Gul Afridi, a tribal elder and former member of the National Assembly from Khyber District, told Pakistan Forward.

"It is time now to speed up the mainstreaming of [the tribal] areas to make them feel like they are part of the state," he said.

"Peace is restored, but we need to educate tribal youth and create more job opportunities for them on their doorstep," Afridi said.

"The sacrifices of tribesmen and security personnel have paved the way for peaceful tribal areas," Iqbal Afridi, a member of the National Assembly representing Khyber District, told Pakistan Forward.

"With the merger plan materialised, the Khyber tribal area will be a gateway for an economic boom," he said.

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