BANNU: The number of tribesmen displaced from North Waziristan has almost doubled in recent days, with the government claiming that the military offensive caused exodus of more than 900,000 people.
Every family of these wandering tribes has its own painful saga with some or very few of them being reported in print media, while local TV stations have been keen on downplaying the miseries of tens of thousands of these brave tribesmen waiting in long queues for aid against their ego and honour. For the time being, for local TV channels, the useless show staged by cleric Tahirul Qadri, who has vowed to bring a revolution in the country, carries more weight. It appears Mr Qadri’s directionless play, without any visible producer or director, will grab more attention in coming days and weeks as thousands of homeless children and women will suffer in filthy and lousy conditions in shanty tents and slums of Bannu and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It seems that unlike the 2009 displacement of people from Swat Valley in the wake of military assault, the plight of unfortunate Waziristanis will not be highlighted in media the way it deserves. Media had then played a crucial role in drawing attention of authorities and international community to the problems faced by families displaced from Swat. Every day, live TV talk shows were conducted from refugee camps then. It is, however, not the same this time and one cannot understand the gravity of the situation faced by homeless families of North Waziristan without being physically witnessed or thoroughly reported in media, both print and electronic.
In the pool of hundreds of tragic stories, the account narrated by Arshad Daur, who presently lives with nine members of his family in a two-room house provided by Malik Naqibullah Khan, ex-provincial minister, in the suburbs of Bannu town, is really heart-wrenching. Arshad, 38, an illiterate and a resident of Dande Darpakhel, a village on the outskirts of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, does not know the whereabouts of his wife and four kids and is presently not in a condition to recall how they were dislocated.
While praying for their early recovery, Daur has a feeling that they were probably killed in the aerial bombardment on Dande Darpakhel, the village which was the target of a number of US drone strikes, one of which had killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the former chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in November 2013. Daur left his village like dozens of others along with his ailing mother, three sisters-in-law and their five kids in haste at midnight when it was targeted in aerial strikes few days ahead of the mass exodus from the region.
They left just in plain clothes that they were wearing. Like many tribesmen, Arshad’s three brothers work in Middle East while he looks after their wives and kids. It took more than 25 hours for them to cover the awful journey from Dande Darpakhel to Bannu. “For miles I carried my old mother on my back. After covering two-three miles distance, we took rest for few minutes and then to embark again on our journey for unknown destination. In the mid, I also had to carry my four-year old nephew and niece on my back as they could not walk for long,” Arshad Daur said. When they finally reached Bannu, they didn’t know what to do next. He said that they were given shelter by person named Wali Khan in Bannu. “We stayed at his place for three days and then decided to leave for Taxila where some of our relatives were settled from a long time,” Daur went on to say. He said that their host in Bannu was kind enough who gave them Rs 5000 to pay for their travel. “We came to Kohat in a public transport and from there left for Tarnol via Khushalgarh,” he said.
When they finally reached Taxila, they were intercepted by Punjab Police. One of the senior constables asked him to prove his identity. “I came from Waziristan. I have neither identity card nor cell phone. I have relatives living on Khanpur road and want to go there,” Daur tried to convince the lower rank officials of Punjab police. His arguments, however, fell on deaf ears and after being slapped several times by one of the constables, the desperate family was taken to the police station. For several hours, they remained in the police station until a senior official got soft hearted with the distressed condition of kids and women. But still he warned: “We will leave you on condition that you’ll have to go back from Punjab because you are not allowed to settle here.”
Daur said that he immediately agreed. “We came back to Tarnol and were lucky to get seats late evening in a van for Kohat. They spent the night in the open in Kohat and next day went to Bannu. “We again went to Wakil and explained what we had experience. The next day, he took us to the hujra (male guest house) of Malik Naqibullah Khan who gave us a two-room house having facilities of electricity and bathroom,” Daur said. The Malik and his family immediately arranged clothes for thems and now they take a lot of care of him and his family. But poor Arshad still cannot qualify for food and money that the government provides to displaced families from North Waziristan as he could not get himself registered due to lack of Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC).
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