Pakistani youth organisation helps terrorism's widows

By Adeel Saeed


The Youth Anti-Terrorism Organisation (YATO), seen here demonstrating in Peshawar in October, has devised a plan to help widows facing financial hardships after losing their husbands to terrorism. [YATO]

PESHAWAR -- The Youth Anti-Terrorism Organisation (YATO), a non-governmental organisation working to fight extremism, has devised a plan to help widows facing financial hardships after losing their husbands to terrorism.

"We have decided to help the families who are most affected by terrorism and are suffering from the martyrdom of their primary breadwinners," YATO Chairman Muhammad Asif told Pakistan Forward.

"We have decided to provide shelter and assistance to the despairing widows and to their families as a sign of sympathy," he said.

YATO's initial plan is to construct eight flats for victims of terrorism and more efforts will be made later to provide more housing, Asif said.


Participants at an October demonstration in Peshawar organised by the Youth Anti-Terrorism Organisation (YATO) demand the inclusion of anti-radicalism essays in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa educational curriculum. [YATO]


Office bearers of the Youth Anti-Terrorism Organisation (YATO) attend a Peshawar function in September. The organisation seeks to eradicate terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. [YATO]

"As a non-governmental entity, YATO is working on a self-help basis without any official support from the government," he said, adding that organisers will rely on their own contributions as well as on support from philanthropists to construct the flats.

"We have selected and purchased land in the Masma area of Nasir Pure Village on the outskirts of Peshawar and will begin construction after collecting the funds," he said.

The cost of building eight flats is estimated at about Rs. 11 million ($82,000).

Raising awareness

"YATO is fighting radicalism by creating awareness among young people and turning them into 'Peace Ambassadors' to promote the message among their peers," Syed Abbas Shah, YATO's general secretary, told Pakistan Forward.

"During our interaction with communities, we found that terrorism has wrought indescribable damage on the lives of many families," he said.

Hundreds of widows are forced to support their families after their husbands tragically died in terrorist incidents, Shah said.

Because of a lack of skills and resources, some of these women even have to become labourers to support their children, he said.

"The main objective behind building homes for widows is to draw the attention of the government and philanthropists towards the plight of victims of terrorism," YATO Vice Chairman Mian Fazal Dad told Pakistan Forward.

The government provides modest compensation -- Rs. 300,000 ($2,255) -- to the families of victims of terrorism, but beyond that the families are left alone to support themselves, he said.

This one-time payment evaporates within five to six months, particularly given inflation in the prices of basic commodities and necessities, he added.

Only a few humanitarian organisations are working to create livelihood opportunities for these families while the majority have turned their eyes from them, Fazal Dad said.

Reducing widows' burden

Widows and other victims of terrorism say they appreciate YATO's initiatives.

"My son used to work with a junk dealer in Pabbi city, Nowshera District, but he is now driving a tri-wheeler provided by YATO," said Khadija Bibi, a widow whose husband, Atta Mohammad, died in a bombing at the Jalozai refugee camp in 2013.

Her son Hassan carries passengers in the tri-wheeler to make money.

Seeing her 14-year-old son, after her husband's death, "scramble to earn a living ... was very difficult", she told Pakistan Forward, adding, "I had no option except to cry over his fate."

Abdida Baji, a widow who resides in Sehti Town of Peshawar, said it is almost impossible for her to cover her family's expenses after paying Rs. 7,500 ($56) per month to rent a flat for her and her children.

"I used to work as a housemaid after the death of my husband, but the sewing machine that YATO provided to me has enabled me to work at my home besides looking after my nine children," she told Pakistan Forward.

Baji said receiving shelter from YATO or any other organisation would reduce a great burden on her monthly income and offset her living expenses.

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