Feeling regret in the markets of Parachinar
Their faces were full of remorse, their voices laced with regret - they had lost so much and gained nothing at all.
I cautiously embarked upon my journey through the tribal area in FATA, this was my first visit to the Kurram Agency. I stayed in Parachinar for six days, an area that had succumbed to sectarian violence, and was now trying to recuperate. Although the community has inflicted much of this violence upon itself, I was impressed by what they had learnt from their trials and how they were shaping their lives now.
Having heard so much about the violence that prevailed in Parachinar, I assumed a guarded pose upon reaching the disputed area. To my surprise, the Kohat-Parachinar road, once overwhelmed by terrorist activities and militant attacks, now seemed peaceful and highly-secure. The authorities seem to have assumed complete control. The district had once been avoided due to what is now considered a “proxy” war among locals but has been transformed into what looks like the security outside the American embassy with roadblocks, check posts and security guards. The safety was a welcome change, not just for me but evidently for the locals who now chose to roam freely, in a place they wouldn’t have thought of coming close to a year ago. Moving beyond sectarian differences, people were joking, helping each other and helping each other move towards improvement and a new beginning.
On the road towards Parachinar every vehicle was stopped at each check post, we were asked for identification and our reason for visiting. Although this process delayed a near four hour trip to seven hours, I was grateful for the security effort put in by the officials.
Roaming the streets of Parachinar I came across people with different views but most of them centred around the same objective - restoring peace. I questioned locals regarding the past four years, the war, the terrorism, the violence. How did they feel about it now? Some of the answers I got, revealed a deep need for peace. They thought the fight was pointless. They felt used, like pawns on a chess board, performing a proxy war for the satisfaction of “someone else”. The “someone else” varied in definition for most people. They wondered why they didn’t manage to think like this in 2007. Some went on to agree that the impact of the violence threw back the city at least 20 years. Their faces were full of remorse, their voices laced with regret, stating they shouldn’t have made the decisions that they did, and the lives lost were all that they received, no gain, just pain.
Most of these answers brought a smile to my face merely because of the naïveté engulfing these people. They seemed confused as to how the war had started in the first place. They were ashamed to have started a war four years ago without any substantial reason to do so, and now that realization had hit, they have openly regretted their actions, stating they lost more than they could ever have gained. Their dignity, self respect, economy, education and family life have all suffered for objectives they were never sure of to begin with. Many of these people have been scarred with bleak memories, the roaring sounds of gun fire, the sight of a bloody corpse on the sidewalk and parents rushing children to wherever “safety” maybe be at the time. They went through a whirlpool of disturbing emotions and some may never recover. from te psychological damage.
The people of Kurram Agency are now recovering. Apart from emotional losses, they have lost a way of life, there is no standard of living and they feel dejected and helpless, yet they strive to help themselves.
Parachinar needs our help.
I write this as an appeal to the people of Pakistan.
We need to work on developmental psychology, promote dialogues between both sectarian groups and lay a foundation for negotiation and not violence as the answer. The youth requires nurturing towards peace, friendship and education. They need lessons on humanity and tolerance. The military can discipline but they cannot foster change - that is for educators to do, NGO’s to promote and the media to advertise.
Teachers should be paid higher salaries to be relocated to the Kurram Agency region so that the educational wheels start turning again, competition is encouraged between students and a semblance of normalcy appears again. Weapons should be ban from entering that area, and the military should continue its operation for more than just a few months so as to condition a sense of peace into every individuals mind. The elders of the vicinity should gather and strategize on how to improve living conditions via peace dialogue and conflict resolution. The government has announced Rs3,00,000 per family for rehabilitation, but we all know that this sum is not enough. The infrastructural loss in this case is too much and the cost incurred will be proportionate if things are to be restored to acceptable circumstances. This amount must be increased, welfare funds must be started, awareness must be spread and rehabilitation must start immediately.
The people of Parachinar are stuck in an abyss and it is our duty, as citizens of this country, to do whatever it is we can do to help them out. To make sure the violent acts of yesterday are not repeated tomorrow, we must act today.