IDPs
S. Waziristan IDPs in a camp in Tank. (file photo)

Lack of facilities and insufficient resources may hinder development and reconstruction process in the operation-ravaged areas of South Waziristan Agency, where the repatriated displaced people are in need of more funds to ascertain the losses and damages to their properties and agricultural lands.

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) are in need of more funds and resources in line with the scale of devastation in Fata due to the military operation ‘Rah-e-Nijat’ launched by Pakistan army in 2009 in Mehsud tribes areas of South Waziristan which caused the displacement of about 2 million people from there.

In February 2017, after 8 years of displacement, the tribes finally started repatriation in their hometowns like Sararogha, Ladha, Sarwekai, Shaktoi, Spinkai Raghzai and Makeen. Before ‘Rah-e-Nijat’, the tribal people used to live in their large dwelling houses made of heavy stones on the mountaintops in those areas.

Thousands of families were forced to leave their homes in the wake of the military operations some eight years ago to purge the area of anti-state elements and their collaborators.

The displaced families were forced to live in miserable conditions in makeshift homes in camps as well as rented houses. Most of them were pleased to hear that they would be returning to their homes after such a long time.

“We are unable to find drinking water in near to our houses. How can we survive?”

A local tribal elder, Malak Sabir Khan tells about his ‘mansion like house’, “I had a big ‘Haweli’, in Tehsil Sararogha, where local people used to arrange traditional Jirgas and solve their issues but now, there are only damaged walls of it.”

Political administration South Waziristan claims only one per cent of the IDPs are yet to resettle. “Some 99 per cent displaced people have returned to their homes,” Political Agent Zafrul Islam Khattak told Tribal Post.

Like Sabir Khan, most of those 99% repatriated IDPs found their houses damaged completely. Such houses were made decades ago of hard mud and heavy stone to prevent heavy rains and snowfalls in the areas.

Sabir Khan added that common people would not be able to reconstruct their houses easily without sufficient government funds. “My ‘haweli’ was built decades ago by my forefathers and I cannot rebuilt it as large and strong as it was before the operation. Because I would need millions of rupees for the purpose,” he told Tribal Post correspondent, adding that he is head of a large family and tribal elder of his tribe.

GHS Karama
Government High School, Karama. (Photo Rizwan Mehsud)

According to Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), round about 71,000 families were verified as IDPs and rest of the 2 million people were not because of their dual addresses on national identity cards. Authorities believe that such people with dual addresses have permanent residencies in settle areas and they could not be verified as displaced people nor they will receive funds allocated for IDPs.

The repatriated IDPs have been facing problems of lack of drinking water since the time they have returned to their hometowns. Before the military operations, they used to bring water from nearby fountains made by themselves in foothills of the mountains. Those fountains are now destroyed. A resident of Sarwekai tehsil Jafar Khan told Tribal Post that the problem of drinking water is very serious for them which government is not considering. “We are unable to find drinking water in near to our houses. How can we survive there?” he raised question. “Forget about other basic facilities, first provide us water,” he said.

Barren land has replaced the fruit-gardens, the only income source of the tribes in Mehsud areas.

However, government has given tubewells operated with solar energy to address the issue of drinking water but Jafar Khan calls it useless. “Those machines (tunewells) are not so much powerful that can supply water up to our houses in such mountainous areas,” he said adding that solar system is not successful because of lack of solar light in their villages on foothills.

He said that electricity was needed to overcome lack of drinking water as wells small agricultural fields. The solar tubewells have insufficient power to supply water.

When asked question about the issues of drinking water, Political Agent South Waziristan said that there were many other serious issues on their priorities to be addressed and they would work for the availability of water in future.

It is worth mentioning here that government has released amounts of money for transportation and reconstruction to only verified families of the IDPs. Some four lac rupees were provided to each family for reconstruction and 10,000 for transportation in addition to other equipment and gear before their travel home.

However, no financial aid was provide for other small works like making of footpaths though the mountainous lands and natural water fountains.

FDMA South Waziristan head Syed Umder told Tribal Post, that Rs. 25,000 were given through ATM cards and Rs. 10,000 through SIM (mobile cash) to each family of the verified IDPs. “We also bring donors and NGOs to help them,” he told.

IDPs were pleased to be returning home despite problems.

However, these financial aid is insufficient for the IDPs to repatriate to their hometowns in the war-battered areas, where they will have to start their lives from scratch as their houses and other infrastructures have been razed to the ground during the seven-year-long military offensive against the militants.

Local administration has been claiming that no stone would be left unturned to ensure hassle-free repatriation of the IDPs to their hometowns, as they have already rendered matchless sacrifices in the war against terrorism.

The Political Agent South Waziristan Zafrul Islam said that the people rendered matchless sacrifices while leaving their properties and living being displaced in settle areas. “Now, we have built new markets, roads and other infrastructures for them.

He said that government asked NGOs to help the IDPs of FATA, especially South Waziristan. He added that government is aware about their economic development, particularly knowing that agriculture was the only source of income of those people, they would help tribesmen to rebuild their cultivation fields.

“We are also trying to provide seeds and plants for their crops and fruit gardens,” PA said.

Naseer Muhammad, a journalism student of Gomal University told Tribal Post that they had several fruit gardens before the displacement but now barren land has replaced their gardens.

He said; “We used to earn money in millions from a single garden before the operation and supplies fruits to huge markets in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other parts of the country,” he added, “all the trees are weathered and cut off and those trees were the only source of income for us.”

Baddar Valley is a mountainous area, surrounded by a large number of green trees. It is situated on the border of Shawal Valley that is also considered as heart of the South Waziristan Agency. “But the whole town ‘seems like a ghost town’,” a resident said.

IDPs are in need reasonable budget in line with the scale of devastation in there hometowns due to military operations. Tribesmen demanded of the government to increase their financial aids and speed up the development activities in the militancy-hit areas so as to repatriate and make possible resettlement.

The repatriated IDPs said that they have been left with nothing; their businesses, livestock, access to education, and even their homes have been destroyed. Even then, they said, they were pleased to be returning home.