Since 2001, displacement in Pakistan began, due to the rise of armed religious militancy. The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially the merged districts (formerly FATA), were affected on the largest scale. The period of being displaced from their homes brought with it a lot of miseries for the people of the merged districts, as they were compelled to leave their houses and properties behind and forced to live under very difficult conditions in Peshawar and other settled districts in the country.
In Khyber District, there were 91,688 IDPs (Internally Displaced People) registered with PDMA Provincial Disaster Management Authority(PDMA), of whom 90,580 have returned to their homes by now, but still 1,108 have not yet gone back.
Naghma, who was once an IDP belonging to District Khyber and has now returned to her home. She tells her heart-wrenching story: “First my husband was killed in a bomb blast. And later on, we were displaced from our own place, that added to our miseries as we had to spend our lives in these IDP camps. After that, when we were allowed to go back to our homes, it was even harder. I returned only to see that my house had also been demolished completely and there was no one who could help me. Our income source died along with my husband, so now I am solely dependent upon relatives, from whom I take some money to feed my children and to buy other groceries. At times, it comes into my mind that I should end my life by committing suicide. But thinking of my children prevents me from doing so – because there is no one who would look after them and their condition will further deteriorate when I will be no more.”
She further adds that she has not received any funds or grant either from the government or non-government organisations. “A lot of people from different organisations came and took details from us, but we have not been given any kind of relief till today. Now, I have stopped giving details to any representative who visits for the purpose of conducting surveys, and I even avoid meeting them.”
Ahsan Dawar, serving as Public relations Officer (PRO) for PDMA, says that those IDPs who have gotten back to their native areas through Voluntary Return Form(VRF) have been given a sum of 35,000 rupees, out of which 25,000 rupees were accounted for under RCG (Return Cash Grants), while 10,000 rupees were given for transportation purposes. He adds that tents were being arranged for those IDPs whose houses were either completely destroyed or were not fit for living, due to the ambushes between the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and militants. According to Dawar,
“Also, for those IDPs who are still registered with us, PDMA gives them an amount of 8,000 rupees on a monthly basis, but our ultimate goal is to send these people back to their own places and to settle them.”
There are many IDPs who do not want to return back to their home regions due to non-availability of facilities
Noreen Naseer, a women’s rights activist and professor by profession, who also hails from the merged districts, says that in a tribal society, usually a male member of the family is responsible to earn livelihood and women are responsible to look after the domestic chores. Unfortunately, the deadly battles between the warring forces have led to the loss of many male members of the families while the wives and children have been displaced – which has completely changed their lifestyles.
“Tribal women went through great mental torture when they had to leave their houses abruptly. Their houses were destroyed and valuables were stolen. Most of their male members were killed. They were living in the Temporarily Displaced People (TDP) or Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps under extremely bad conditions, and they also faced harassment there. They were made to eat and wear by seeking for assistance, which dented their confidence and dignity,” she adds. After coming back to homes, Naseer explains, their lives have become further worse, as most IDPs, especially those who are female, are not registered. “Therefore, no one is there to help them and they are living in demolished homes. Since most of their male family members have been killed, now females are doing either small businesses like selling daily products or working in other people’s houses as maids – but the money they earn is not enough to feed their children. On the other hand there are a lot of people, especially so-called Mashran (elders)/Maliks who take funds from organizations through different swindling acts and tactics but they keep it in their pockets and don’t distribute it among the deserving people.”
Zarghon Shah Afridi, a political activist from District Khyber, says that many IDPs from Kukikhel, Kamarkhel, Kambarkhel and Malak Dinkhel are not even registered and recognised as IDPs officially. This is why they are deprived of the funds and facilities to which they are entitled. There are many reasons for their unregistered status but illiteracy is the deciding factor. “Most of the people don’t know about the process of registration and getting funds from different organisations. There are many people, especially women, who don’t have identity cards, which is also a barrier, not to mention the government’s non-seriousness towards this grave issue.”
There are many IDPs who do not want to return back to their home regions due to non-availability of facilities. Many people who were forced to migrate to Peshawar or other settled areas are now unwilling to go back to their native areas. They say they would otherwise love to go back to their native areas in the tribal districts but the lack of basic facilities there is holding them back.
“In 2012, about 90 percent of people from Bara, including our own family, shifted to Peshawar due to the law and order situation at that time. The situation has improved since a year or two and many people have gone back, but we are still staying in Peshawar because there is a massive difference between the living standard of Bara and Peshawar,” says Bushra, who along with her family lives in Peshawar after getting displaced from Bara. “We have our home in Bara, but there is no proper education, healthcare, transport, electricity gas or other facilities. The law-and-order is also not as good. Our homes are destroyed. Our family is not willing to go back to Bara under these circumstances.”
According to Noreen Naseer, the government and other non-governmental organisations should properly survey these war-affected areas. “They should identify the people who are affected. They should create opportunities for them like giving them grants and funds for starting small businesses, make education free for their children, award them health cards and start a regular monthly assistance in the form of cash.”