Just when 30-year-old Zamir Khan and his family of five were set to move to Karachi in search of greener pastures, their plans took a turn. The day labourer from Khyber Agency had a change of heart after getting news of seven people, most of them Pashtuns, being killed by a Sindhi nationalist group on a Kohat-bound bus.
“This has scared me. There have been attacks in Karachi as well, though this happened in another town. Perhaps it is better to stay closer to home,” Khan told IRIN.
Perturbed over the news, his wife Marina, 26, and their daughter Shandana, eight, began unpacking bags and large canvas sacks used to store bedding. They placed the contents back onto shelves in the corner of their one-room house, which also serves as the kitchen.
“I had such high hopes of a future better than this – no rats running under our beds and a daily struggle to make ends meet. But I guess we will just have to make do in this rented hovel a bit longer,” said Marina.
Only a day before Khan had planned to move his family from Kohat to Karachi in the hope of finding a better job. “I see little hope of things calming down in Khyber Agency. I thought it was best for us to move to a large city where more work will be available. But now I have changed my mind about going to Karachi,” he said. He had fled his home in the Khyber Agency due to conflict between militants and troops two years back.
Violence targeting Pashtuns has claimed hundreds of lives in Karachi over the past few years. According to the Vancouver-based Human Security Report Project, over 1,000 people were killed in ethnic violence in the city in 2010, most of them had moved from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in search of work.
Like Khan, other displaced people also feel they have nowhere to go. Muhammad Noor from Swat Valley lost his small roadside café in the devastating floods that ravaged the region in 2010.
“My farm got destroyed in the conflict between militants and army troops the year before that… I had thought of heading to Quetta [in Balochistan, where he has family] but safety issues concern me,” said Noor.
“Talk of the attack on the bus has spread everywhere,” said Nasirullah, a tailor in Kohat. There are scores of internally displaced persons wondering where to go. For most of them, it seems as though there are fewer and fewer options left, given the fear that exists in so many places, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.
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