Pakistani militancy ruins thousands of families

By Javed Mahmood

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif July 4 in Bannu spends an evening with TDPs. They discussed aspects of resettlement and development work. [Courtesy of Javed Mahmood]

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif July 4 in Bannu spends an evening with TDPs. They discussed aspects of resettlement and development work. [Courtesy of Javed Mahmood]

KARACHI -- Militancy has ruined the lives of previously well-off families in terror-stricken areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), residents say.

"We were leading a happy and prosperous life, but terrorism ruined us a few years ago and displaced us as well," Mehrin Khan from Miranshah, North Waziristan, told Pakistan Forward.

"My family owned a few shops and a small flour mill. We lived in a spacious house," she said, estimating the properties' worth at well over Rs. 20m (US $200,000).

Losing everything

"A few years ago militants belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ... started forcibly recruiting young men in our area and threatening dire consequences to those who did not support the TTP," she said.

Her family fled four years ago to Islamabad, fearing for their lives, she said.

"During the recent Eid ul Fitr, we visited our hometown to discover that our shops, flour mill and home had been ruined," she said tearfully. "The locks and doors of our shops and house were broken. Our belongings were rusted."

"My husband has a government job in Islamabad, and now that is our only source of income," she said. "How much support we get from the government for rehabilitation of our property and business remains to be seen."

Many other families like Mehrin's have suffered the same situation in terrorism-stricken areas, Mehrin said.

From farmer to cobbler

Gul Khan, whose family owned farmland and cattle in Bajaur Agency, told a similar story.

"We were leading a happy life, but suddenly a few years ago, the Taliban penetrated the area and made people's lives miserable," he told Pakistan Forward.

Gul migrated to Karachi and survives by working as a cobbler in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) neighbourhood. There he lives for free with a friend from Bajaur Agency who works as a watchman in a DHA office.

Whatever money Gul saves from this small business, he sends to his family in Bajaur Agency.

"Although the military cleared the strongholds of the TTP in Bajaur several years ago, Operation Zarb-e-Azb is clearing many more areas," he said, referring to the Pakistani army operation targeting militants and terrorists since June 2014.

"But the militancy has ruined us completely," he said.

Once a millionaire

Tariq Khan, who owns orchards of grapes and apples near Quetta, said that just a few years ago he was a millionaire. Now he and his family are living in Karachi without any business.

Since security forces have minimised the threat of militancy in Balochistan, Khan told Pakistan Forward that he wants to return to Quetta to try to revive his orchards and his livelihood.

Hopes for return

The military's successes since 2014 in killing and dispelling militants are making homecoming possible now for temporarily displaced persons (TDPs).

The government is working to return displaced families to their homes, Capt. (ret.) Tariq Hayat, joint secretary and spokesman for the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, said.

"By this October, we will complete the task of returning 400,000 temporarily displaced families to North and South Waziristan and Orakzai Agency," he told Pakistan Forward. "We have already sent back 345,000 families, and the remaining 55,000 families will be resettled in the said areas by October."

The Pakistani government is paying Rs. 35,000 (US $350) in cash assistance to each family, along with providing 90kg packets of food every month for six months, he said.

In addition, the government is compensating families Rs. 400,000 (US $4,000) for destroyed houses and Rs. 160,000 (US $1,600) for damaged houses, he said.

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