KHAR, Bajaur District -- The Sewai Bazaar in Bajaur District, shut down in 2008 after terrorists began using it as a hub for their activities, has reopened for business following the restoration of peace in the region.
The Pakistani government authorised the reopening of the market last November, when locals and security officials inaugurated reconstruction work at the facility.
The market, situated in Mamond Tehsil of Bajaur, was destroyed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants more than a decade ago.
Now, some businesses have restarted operating at the refurbished facility.
"Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan used this area as its centre for activities, and the main mosque was its main office," said Najeeb Ullah Hilal, a youth leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party and president of the Sewai traders' union, on August 24.
"All its activities were conducted from this market, making it the main battlefield between the TTP and the military in 2008," he added.
"This bazaar had not been functional since August 6, 2008," Hilal said. "The militants badly damaged business activity and normal life, but now life has become normal again, and people are happy with the restoration of peace."
Before militants took control of the area, 80 businesses operated in the market, including small enterprises that made wheat-grinder and mustard-oil machines, Hilal said.
"We have asked authorities and donors to help reconstruct shops that are still damaged, and hopefully they will facilitate us soon," he said.
Three restaurants, a barbershop, a dental clinic, a general store, two fruit vendors and a motorcycle mechanic recently have resumed business, he said.
"We are happy that our area is now peaceful because of the security forces, and reopening the Sewai market will boost local business," said Muhammad Gul Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Bajaur chapter.
"The reopening of the market will provide employment opportunities to jobless residents of the area," he said.
A gathering spot for youth
"The Sewai Bazaar was once known for youth using it for picnic activities in the evenings, but when the TTP took over the facility in 2007-2008, the Taliban banned it," said Bilal Khan, a local resident.
"After the restoration of peace, this centre once again is a hub for youth picnic activities," he said.
"Youth and other groups gather for social activities in the newly constructed Restaurant Baghban," said Younas Khan, a member of the Bajaur Youth Welfare Organisation, a local youth group. "This place was once used for TTP activities, but now youth use it for social and progressive activities."
Groups of young people gather at the popular restaurant until late at night, he said.
Fazal Khan, a general store owner and a local resident, said he is excited about the reopening of the bazaar and of his business.
"I was a vendor at the Sewai market before 2008 and recently started my business again," he said. "I am happy that now I have restarted my business. I have been jobless since 2008, but now I am working again."
"The government should provide small grants to boost business at the centre, as our businesses need financial support," said Asghar Khan, owner of the popular Karachi Buryani Restaurant in the bazaar.
"I have more than 100 customers every day and want to improve my business, but it needs some support," he said.
Mahtab Khan, another business owner at the bazaar, echoed the need for government backing.
“Restoration of the economy is essential, and the government and other donor organisations should come forward to help traders of the market," he said. "We must strengthen the economy of the affected shopkeepers first because their businesses were shut down for a decade.
"Compensation must go immediately to traders with damaged shops," he continued. "The elected representatives should play their role in providing aid."