In Jalozai camp: Driven out by the bullet, IDPs turn to the ballot

Forced out of their homes, the inhabitants of Jalozai camp hope that change is in the air.


The IDPs of Jalozai camp gather under a shed for an election gathering. PHOTO: ASAD ZIA/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR:


The hustle and bustle of party workers, candidates and former political leaders in the Jalozai camp has renewed the hopes of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who had flocked here to seek refuge from violence in the Khyber Agency.


The camp administration reports that up to 12,083 families of the Khyber Agency, particularly from the Tirah Valley in Bara, are accommodated at the camp which is located 35 kilometres from Peshawar. While they shelter here, their home is a warzone as the Pakistan army combats the combined forces of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah Valley.

Party flags of different colours and sizes flutter at the Jalozai camp entrance, while banners and posters dot the exteriors of brick-walled houses and sheds.

Noor Akbar Afridi, the camp incharge said political parties have been asked to set up their offices outside the camp for security reasons.

Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl and various independent candidates have set up camps here, and each is getting an eager response.

The displaced individuals refuse to be discouraged by the violence they have encountered in the past. They are eager to battle through the ballot.

“Our houses were demolished, our businesses shut, our education institutes were destroyed; but now we want peace and will vote for those who are sincere to this land and its people,” says one Hussain Shah from Bara.

But not all are as hopeful as Shah, the very sight of banner enrages the elderly Amin Gul Afridi. “Political leaders are now visiting us just to win votes,” he said. “Where were they when we were facing difficulties?”

But it seems his is a minority opinion. However disillusioned and traumatised these internal refugees may be, they still seem hopeful that a change is in the air.

Dawalat Khan a worker of the Jamaat-e-Islami, happily noted that the IDPs of Jalozai were taking an interest in political activity.

Khan said that the increased enthusiasm for elections stemmed from people’s desire for a change, and that they were eagerly waiting for May 11.

Iqbal Afridi, a candidate for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said his party had started campaigning within the camp, adding that he was hopeful that many people will vote for the PTI. He said that 20 candidates will contest election from NA-46, where the total registered voters are 175,000.

The PTI candidate said that 16 polling stations will be established in the camp and separate stations will be established for women.

From all indications, it seems the majority of the camp inhabitants will come out and vote.

“I will vote because it is my right, said Baghcha Gul who hails from Tirah. “I will vote for those who bring peace in the area.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2013.

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