Braving the odds: Journey on foot brings family to new Bannu home

Published: July 9, 2014
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Majid lives in his new house in Bannu. PHOTO/EXPRESS

Majid lives in his new house in Bannu. PHOTO/EXPRESS

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: 

On the 19th of June, eight-year-old Majid Khan was on the rooftop of his house, playing with his pet pigeons. As the birds took flight, he urged them on, shouting and clapping with glee as they flew higher and higher. He heard his father angrily shout for him to come downstairs, to prepare to leave their home. It was day four of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Majid’s family was preparing to flee from their village of Tappi in Miramshah, North Waziristan.

“I quickly put out some bowls of water and some seeds for the pigeons,” said Majid, “Maybe they have been eating the anaaj in my absence.” Now one of an estimated 800,000 internally displaced persons in Bannu, Majid travelled from Tappi to the Saidgai check post by foot, a journey that took two days.

A human caravan of men, women and children mapped their route along the banks of the Tochi River, crossing Mubarak Shah, Eidak, Khadi, Zeraka, Asoree, Eso Khel, and Hyder Khel among other areas. “We rested in Eidak for a while and my mother fed us rotis,” Majid said. “She made sure we remained in her sight the whole time as she was scared that we would go missing in the crowd.”

While many families were able to afford transport to Bannu, many, like Majid’s family undertook the trek on foot. They travelled light, carrying only a few household items and leaving behind their animals.

When the family reached the Saidgai security check post, Majid and his 15 siblings waited under a blackberry tree as his father registered the family members. It took two more days for the registration process to be completed, and the family took shelter where they could, sleeping on the open ground and foraging for food and water. “It was horrible to see children crying for water at Saidgai,” Majid recalled. “I did not cry until I saw my uncle fall unconscious. We brought him under the tree’s shade, but there was no doctor and no medicine to tend to him.” A local tribesman cared for Majid’s uncle, Lal Muhammad, until he recovered. “That is one thing I will never forget,” Majid says.

After the family was finally registered, they travelled on to Bannu using the transport facilities available. They are temporarily settled with relatives here and have been given two rooms – one for each of Majid’s father’s wives, who have eight children each.

A student in the second grade at Salman Middle Public School in Miramshah, Majid says he misses his school friends. “I did not even bring my schoolbag here,” he said. “I don’t know where my class friends have gone. At night I often dream I am with them, playing with my friends Yusaf, Asim, Mughid, Israr and Abid.”

Majid’s father, Abdul Salam, says he is anxious about how to care for his family here. “In Tappi, I was looking forward to the harvest season as I had fields of okra, tomatoes and an orchard of grapes. Here I have no source of income.” He left his cattle behind in Tappi and says the family will not return until peace is restored in the area. “The grand jirga in North Waziristan was telling us not to leave our homes, saying the issue would be resolved through negotiations. But then the operation started,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2014. 

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Sania
    Jul 9, 2014 - 10:19AM

    Ok, I just don’t get it! WHY on earth would you have TWO WIVES, and 16 CHILDREN if you can’t afford to pay for anything and take care of them? If Majid’s father is not at fault then can anyone tell me why he was not able to arrange for the family’s travel appropriately and have proper food/drink available for the journey at least???? If only these families were ONE WIFE AND 2 KIDS, we would blame govt for not making appropriate arrangements, but its not govt’s responsibility to take care of such large families because they chose to have such large families. I feel sorry for their small children who have to suffer due to their dad wanting more women for sex.

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  • Faisal
    Jul 9, 2014 - 10:31AM

    Two wives and sixteen children? Never heard of family planning I guess. Its good that these people are getting a tough time. They will think twice before cheering militants in future.

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  • Ali
    Jul 9, 2014 - 11:17AM

    Its very difficult for the young one’s forget about this tragic incident in there lives…
    May Allah Give them the power & us to help them in these difficult moments.

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  • sardarzaheer
    Jul 9, 2014 - 11:39AM

    Majid nation is thankful for your scarifies, Pakistan is proud of you

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  • kulwant singh
    Jul 9, 2014 - 8:57PM

    In Haryana state there is Muslim man who is having only one wife but twenty three children, you will not believe but it is true,but the educated people prefer only one or to children if the first one is a male then full stop.

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  • H Khan
    Jul 12, 2014 - 2:13AM

    @Faisal: shame on you…. let me tell you taghay your Punjab has population of 65 million as compared to 2 million of north waziristan.

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  • Abid
    Jul 12, 2014 - 2:15AM

    @kulwant singh:
    I have yet to meet a Singh who is also educated..

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  • Afroze Zaman
    Jul 12, 2014 - 4:27AM

    @Faisal:
    @Sania:
    What arrogance show some respect these IDP’s are Pakistanis and better Muslims than you and I can ever be they had to leave their homes and lively hood with little or no warning and what makes you think that you are better and more important than these IDPs history books have been written by foreign writers about people of FATA – these are proud people who belong to race of Kings and Warriors unlike the 65 million ——- that resides in the big province.

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  • Ubaid
    Jul 12, 2014 - 9:44AM

    @Sania:
    it’s none of your damn business.

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