From bombs to ‘parchis’: Residents of FR Peshawar migrate to safer places

Militants infiltrating the area broaden their scope from broad assaults to individual extortion.

Umer Farooq July 23, 2013
In addition to increasing militant assaults – extortion is becoming routine practice in the outskirts of the provincial capital. PHOTO: AMIRZADA AFRIDI/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: People living in the tribal areas, Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar in particular, have had to deal with life-threatening problems from the day anti-state elements moved in. With no solution in sight and escalating risks, locals are now packing up and finding new places to call home.

After the security forces’ offensive against anti-state elements in FR Kohat (Darra Adam Khel), most militants moved deeper into the tribal belt. However, a substantial cohort moved east to FR Peshawar.

Comprising Hassan Khel, Borha, Pakhe, Kandao and some parts of Sherkera, FR Peshawar has now become a no-go area; not just for law enforcement personnel but also its own inhabitants. Militants there carry out attacks and other such activities unhindered and victims are not just members of the forces, but civilians as well.

In addition to increasing militant assaults – extortion is becoming routine practice in the outskirts of the provincial capital. It is said these demands are made by militants and have caused locals to panic, forcing them to shift to safer ground.

A majority migrated to the provincial capital; some to other cities including Karachi and Islamabad. The more affluent families purchased property when they relocated, but many FR Peshawar residents have been forced to live in rented houses in their new locations.

“They (militants) move down the mountains at night, attack check posts, blow up schools and return unhindered, unharmed,” stated one influential local. He wished to remain anonymous, fearing militants would target him or his family.

The 60-year-old said most of his family’s male members are living and earning abroad. He too purchased a house in Peshawar and moved the family from the FR.

“My grandson and I visited our home (in FR Peshawar) after 15 or 20 days just to check whether it was still there, intact – since it only takes one bomb to turn your house to rubble,” said the elderly man.

To make matters worse, the newly-established ‘parchi’ system in the area has made matters worse, he added.

One of the victims of the parchi system, or extortion, revealed he made the payment and then left his village. “I don’t know who they were – call them militants or criminals, but the slip which reached me was inscribed with death threats if I didn’t pay up,” he explained.

Not wanting to put his or his family’s lives at stake, he paid the amount demanded and then moved out of FR Peshawar.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2013.

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