Escaping Swat: Living is tough, leaving tougher

Published: February 6, 2011
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Years of tumult and worsening security lead to an exodus of Swatis to the Gulf

Years of tumult and worsening security lead to an exodus of Swatis to the Gulf

SWAT: One of the busiest government offices in Swat is the passport office, where families are seen camping out every day, waiting to receive their passports once the system server gets back up.

Many families, which come to the office from far flung areas, cannot afford to make the return trip and decide to stay out in the open despite the harsh weather. Usually, they have to return home, disappointed, after two or three days.

According to some estimates, as many as 30 per cent of the people from Swat Valley are currently working in the Gulf countries to earn a livelihood for their families. The tumultuous security situation and the battle between military and militants are major reasons for migration.

“I live in a town 45 kilometres from here and have been here since early morning. It is 2:00 pm, but the server is still down,” said Afzal Khan, a resident of Khwazakhela. “I don’t even know whether the server will resume working today at all.”

Hussain Ahmed, who was accompanied by his entire family from Matta, also helplessly sat in the crowd. “I have brought my whole family to obtain a passport for all. This is our second day here and we will wait until the system is working again,” he said, requesting the interior ministry to take notice of the situation.

According to the acting assistant-director of the passport office Zahoor Khan, the office is currently operating without a person in-charge of the servers. “I do feel the pain of the people but our in-charge, responsible for the server, was transferred a month ago. Now, we have to request the Islamabad office to control it,” he explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2011.

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