The operation against militants in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency is over, the area has been declared clear, but the roads are still empty and shops still closed. Khan Baz Hotel is the only shop on the road, a makeshift set-up open in the day which sells salted meat known as rosh with rice.
“It is after years of wars that some peace has finally been restored,” Khan Baz told The Express Tribune on Thursday. The fact that he reopened after a stretch of seven years bears testament to the unrest and unpredictability of the region.
“I was the first one to take the plunge,” Khan Baz said. He believed the lost grandeur of this market will be restored as efforts are under way by the security forces and the government. Khan Baz said, “I have been serving food since seven days now; I am getting hundreds of customers daily.” His bustling business is another sign of life taking root – construction in the market is the reason he has customers.
Rising again: Traders in Bara Bazaar to register for reopening shops
Khan Baz said when the war started in the area he and his family had to shift to the IDP camp in Jalozai, Nowshera.“Life was very difficult in the camp; everyone wanted to return so they could reconstruct the ravaged markets and piece their lives back together.” Khan Baz said, “People can still come here. They come here to eat and visit their shops [being constructed] but they need help to bring back the magnificence of this once beautiful market.”
Reconstruction work is going on, the road from Bara to Tirah is under construction and a new link road is being made. It will connect Bara tehsil with Hayatabad, a posh area of the city of Peshawar.
Work is also under way on the sanitation system as it was also blocked since the wars had started.
The power of faith
Gul Public School, which was shifted to Sarband, has also been brought back to its original location.
“If the school has been relocated, it means the situation will get better soon,” tenth grader Jasim Afridi said. He was awarded a trophy for passing school exams with distinction. Afridi added militancy and the closure of his school caused him to waste two years of his education.
Rising again: Political agent announces reopening of shops in Bara Bazaar
Risen from dark
In February the political agent of Khyber Agency reopened the iconic Bara Bazaar for the first time. Before it was razed to the ground in military action, the market was famous for the quality, variety and uniqueness of the items stocked. These included branded goods such as cosmetics, toys, clothing, electronic appliances, crockery, and cutlery – the reason why it was visited by so many every day. Products from Bara Bazaar were also moved to other markets by the whole sellers.
It was sealed in 2009 when a formal military operation was launched against militants. People were displaced; markets and other structures turned into ruins.
The war against militant groups damaged the market. Trade union leaders now want the government to compensate them so they can restore their businesses which they were forced to abandon.
Though it has now reopened, security forces have a tight hold on all exist and entrance points.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2016.