Khan Wazir, 67, travelled from South Waziristan to Dera Ismail Khan on foot. After the two-day journey, Wazir, once an ‘honourable man’, became an internally displaced person (IDP).
Wazir and his family of eight, including his grandchildren, fled South Waziristan during the 2009 “Rah-e-Nejat” military operation.
The operation, targeting the Mehsud area of South Waziristan, destroyed the small shop he owned as well as his mud house. “We had no option but to leave when the military operation started,” he said, adding that his livestock of a cow and 10 goats were also killed.
“I used to be part of the tribal jirga and was respected by all tribes, but after becoming an IDP I have lost all honour and respect,” said Wazir, wearing his turban – a sign of honour in Waziristan.
“I am bound to pay three months rent here in DI Khan, which adds up to around Rs7,500. The rent is a major constraint on my resources, but if I do not pay in time the owners will force me out of the house,” said the visibly upset man from Phirthigia village of Ladh subdivision, South Waziristan.
Back home, his elder son used to run a small shop and his earnings were enough for a comfortable and ‘honourable’ life. “Now my son works on daily wages in DI Khan and his income is barely enough for rent and food. I would work myself but my age and health does not permit me to.”
Sitting beside her grandfather, Safina Khan, 6, softly said she wants to go to school but her father does not enrol her in one. Unfortunately, however, her father can no longer afford her schooling.
“In the morning, girls go to the nearby school and tell her to come too. It’s very painful for us every time she asks us to admit her in school,” said her grandfather.
Despite the difficulties that DI Khan has to offer, Wazir says he cannot go back home. When I do not have a place to live, what will I go back to the mountains for? Until I have enough money to rebuild my house, I cannot go back home.”
The political administration of South Waziristan along with security forces had made arrangement for the repatriation of IDPs from April 25-28. But most IDPs settled are unwilling to go back home. Some of them have set up small businesses and want to avail the opportunities that city life has to offer, while others like Wazir have nothing left to return to.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2012.