SHABQADAR: Situated 622 kilometres from Badakhshan, the epicentre of the earthquake that ripped through Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bajaur Agency is trying to come to terms with the trail of destruction.
As per FDMA statistics, 1,200 houses have been damaged while 600 others have been destroyed in the agency. However, two Fata lawmakers – Shahabuddin and Bismillah Khan – have challenged these figures and claimed at least 20,000 houses have been damaged. On the other hand, an official of the political administration said 8,120 houses have been destroyed and 32 schools and 12 health centres were damaged.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Malik Imam Sharif, a tribal leader, said a large number of villages along the Pak-Afghan border have been affected by the catastrophe. Routine life in Ghakhi, Kohi and Bar Madak has screeched to a grinding halt as several residents have been left out of home and hearth.
“Nearly 80% of houses in Kohi and Ghakhi are made of mud and stone and have either been damaged or destroyed,” he said.
According to Malik Imam, a majority of residents are poor and cannot afford to rebuild their houses.
“Many of them work in other parts of the country and earn a pittance,” he said. “They will need financial assistance to bring their lives back on track.”
Rahimullah, a resident of Shen Kot, Khar, told The Express Tribune his three-room house has been partially damaged. “We fear the roof will collapse in the event of an aftershock and cannot live there,” he said.
Umar Rehman, his son, said of the 200 houses of the area, about 27 have been completely damaged.
“The houses have become almost uninhabitable,” he said. “My father and brother spend the days guarding their damaged house and spend the nights at my house.”
According to Rehman, the political administration has surveyed the area and is aware of the houses which have been damaged. However, little has been done to address their plight.
“Many residents have already spent two nights out in the cold and have not been provided any relief goods from government or NGOs,” he added.
Where will the people go?
Hanifullah, a social activist who visited Changaro in Salarzai tehsil after the earthquake, told The Express Tribune around 50 houses have been destroyed while 150 houses have been partially damaged.
“None of these houses are in a state where they can be inhabited by residents,” he said.
According to the social activist, the political administration has provided only 20 tents to Changaro. “However, 100 tents are needed,” he said. “Residents need protection from the cold weather.”
On the other hand, around 300 houses in Mator village of Salarzai have been damaged. “The government only provided assistance to a few residents,” Hanifullah said. “I strongly urge the government and NGOs to help the affected population.”
In the shadows
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz FATA Youth Wing President Nizamuddin Khan said the Pakistan Army and the political administration have tried their best to provide relief. “However, their efforts are insufficient for such a massive disaster,” he added. “The government should give access to NGOs and international media to highlight the catastrophic effects of the earthquake in Bajaur,” he said.
When contacted, a political administration official said 900 blankets and 864 tents have been provided to the people of Bajaur.
“Efforts are afoot to provide relief to residents,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.