Saleemuddin still remembers the day he was trapped in crossfire between militants and security forces.
“I was on my way to work when I was suddenly hit by a bullet in my leg. I tried to run for cover to avoid more hits but I couldn’t escape from the series of bullets, which hit both my legs. I don’t remember what happened to me after that,” said the 27-year-old former barber while talking to The Express Tribune.
Before the tragic incident took place, Saleem lived in Kabal with his parents, six brothers and four sisters and his barber shop would be flocked with customers all the time.
However, his peaceful life was shattered when the militants entered the Swat Valley and imposed a ban on shaving beards. Saleem, nevertheless, kept his business running. “I underwent three major surgeries and twelve bullets were taken out from my legs. I was lucky enough to survive but unfortunately I became disabled forever,” Saleem explained in a painful voice.
Stuck in totally adverse conditions, his family shifted to Mardan during a mass exodus.
“Moving to Mardan was nothing less than physical torture. My wounds had not healed completely due to which I had severe difficulty in travelling,” he said narrating his ordeal.
When peace was restored in Swat, Saleem decided to move back to his native village. However, much to his dismay, things were not as easy as he had imagined as he was disabled and jobless. Just when he had lost all hope, he was approached by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) to join a peace and development project launched by UNDP.
“I took a basic enterprise training which enabled me to restore my livelihood. I was also given Rs35,000, while I borrowed Rs5,000 from a relative and opened a small-scale general store.
Today, his business is flourishing with each passing day and he is earning a livelihood for his family despite his physical disability. “They came to me when I was completely disappointed with life and enabled me to become a productive citizen once again,” he said with gratitude.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.