Stuck in prehistory, yet satisfied

Published: April 23, 2012

A view of the fields of Shakkaro. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ

A view of the fields of Shakkaro. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ
Little Atia walking home with her laundry. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ

SWAT: Just a few kilometres away from Mingora, 300 households in the farming village of Shakkaro and nearby hamlets still lack access to basic facilities. But, oddly enough, the villagers bear no ill-will towards the government.

The entire village is dependent upon a small water spring, where women and children bring water on their heads from. “Men are not allowed near the spring during the day. From morning to evening only women and children can go there, while only men may go in the evenings,” said Pardull Khan, a shopkeeper in the village.

Khan, a young boy, hopes to see his village transformed into one with facilities that he has only heard of. “The MNA had electricity poles and lines installed but we get no electricity. We often hear from other people about TV, computers, the internet and other new technologies, but we have never seen these things up close,” he said. To him the lack of clean drinking water, proper sanitation and street pavements are not “big” issues.

But few others share his dream of a village with modern facilities.

Thirteen-year-old Atia was heading home from the spring with some friends by her side and a large pan full of washed clothes on her head.

“I don’t go to school as I have to wash laundry daily. I take my brothers’ and sisters’ clothes to the spring in the valley and wait for my turn behind a queue of other women and children with laundry,” she said, adding, “This is our routine. We fetch water and wash clothes in the spring every day. It is tiring but I am used to it.”

Most villagers are either sharecroppers working for local landlords or day labourers. “We go out early in the morning to work. Many of us work in the fields here in the village. We return in the evening and don’t have time to go ask elected bodies to bring facilities to the village,” said 21-year-old Sher Bahadar.

Bahadar felt that facilities and luxuries are connected with rich people. “What will we do with the things you say we need? We only need money to buy food for our families.”

But it is not like the village is completely devoid of technology — some villagers have mobile phones. And with no access to electricity in town, they have come up with a communal solution to charge their phones. “If anyone of us goes to Mingora, we hand over our mobile phones for charging or we go to a mosque in a nearby village to charge them,” said Zahoor, a young boy who was listening to songs on his cell phone.

Though the villagers said they vote regularly, they seemed to be unaware of the significance of elections. Sixty-year-old Zamin Gul said, “I don’t know our MPA’s name. We cast votes in favour of whoever comes to our door and asks for our votes … and we don’t do it to get something in return.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.

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