By Ashrafuddin Pirzada

The Pakistani Switzerland Tirah valley gets Rs5.4b for peace and development

" It was a heart beating moment for me when i saw my home and shop bombed and all belongings were set on fire", Manhoj Kumar Afridi,a resident of Tirah Bagh Maidan ,recalling the day of his return to his home after five years. He says that they were so  disappointed because his mud-made house and  in his shop in Maidan bazaar area of Tirah valley were collapsed. Manhoj was one of other families including Sikh and Hindus who escaped from Kuz and Bar Bagh areas of Tirah Maidan in 2010.Manhoj Kumar Afridi,a Hindu community member, was lived in Peshawar Ganj Bazaar for years long but went back after peace was restored in Tirah Maidan. He started again selling daily daily commodities in his  destroyed shop in Maidan bazaar where he passed his childhood.He says that they fled from Tirah when TTP and Lashkar-e-Islam waged joint attacks on Maidan.He said his  younger brother,Santosh Kumar Afridi had got injuries  when a mortar shell hit their home before escaping from his village.

 

Manhoj says he witness what kind of brutality took place in his village where dozens of people including women,children and elderly men were shot dead,however,he says that non of the militant groups and other gunmen targeted any of person from minority any where in Tirah. Bloodshed  between Qazi Mehboobul Haq-led Ansarul Islam and Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam in early 2010 claimed dozens of lives,he says.. He adds they fled from Maidan when Kuz and Bar Maidan Bagh areas his village was  besieged by LI and TTP.
Returnig to Maidan Kuz Bagh area after almost five years, Manhoj Kumar says that he is happy as he is again in his village and his shop where he is earning breed for his small family.He sales pulses,sugar,tea,wheat and other daily commodities in a damaged shop in Tirah Maidan Bazaar situated near Pak-Army camp which was the headquarters of Ansarul Islam before the military operations against militants." I am lucky to have own property,fertile land and cute two children" Manhoj Kumar Afridi said while happiness and courage could be seen on his face.
It was not a pleasant moment for Manhoj talking with mediaman for the first time in his life but i was the firstever access for media persons after the conflict walking through Maidan bazaar, capturing pictures in green postures and on the top of mountain peaks which were covered with tall trees.
Residents say life comes back to Tirah Maidan as  Pakistan Army cleared it from LI and TTP after years long fight which claimed thousands of lives including civilians and personnel of the security forces. More than thirty thousands families were living in Tirah Maidan where more than two thousands were Hindus and sikh families. Though people in Maidan were happy returning from IDPs camps to their hometown in Tirah valley but they had no basic needs like foods,medicines,electricity,health facilities,proper schooling sytem and roads  which connect Tirah valley with rest of the country. People either living in damaged homes or under the shadows of trees.
Though peace has been restored in the maximum parts of Tirah valley but residents log complaints that they have not been given such compensation promised with them by the government. Abdul Hamid Afridi runs a public call office in Bar Bagh bazaar in Tirah Maidan says that he along with his family returned to Tirah six month back but they were not provided even a single tent.He says when they came back saw their home like ruins."All the rooms were caved-in with explosions remaining only debris and ashes of their home appliances ", says Abdul Hamid.
According to the Khyber Agency officials, thirty thousands displaced persons have been returned to Tirah Maidan but most of them either residing in mosques or sharing hujras(males guests houses) with each other. Dozens of school children including girls were seen setting under the tree as no school building was seen standing on the ground.A teacher said that three state-run primary schools and thirteen private schools were destroyed. Tirah residents were worried about their children' s education and  raised demands for health,education and rehabilitation of their homes and other installations.
Like others residents,59-year-old Otam Singh Afridi was optimistic about peace and development of  Tirah valley.He was happy seeing media men in Bagh bazaar says that he lost his 36 rooms home and his shop during the conflict but he loves Tirah Maidan.He has had a shops in Kuz Bagh Bazaar and residing in his shop at night time.Otam says he could not brought his family from Peshawar as there was no shelter for women and children.Otam Singh earning in Tirah and send money to Peshawar.When asked what the hardship he and other minority people faced from the militant groups he says" Without any exaggeration several militant groups including TTP,LI  and AI  occupied Maidan for a period of time but they didn't killed or injured a person from minority not in Tirah valley but in the rest of his relatives are safe and sound living in Fata", Otam remarks.
Agency Education Officer(AEO) claimed that 15 community, 8 government primary Schools while 17 private schools are functional but most of them are destroyed.He says they also requested NGOs and political administration for the  rehabilitation the damaged schools.According the AEO Khyber Agency 36 tents and books have been provided to the damaged schools while teachers are compelled to reside in nearby mosques.Not only Education but health is also a challenge for the government to reactivate health centres in Tirah valley.
 
 
According to Fata officials,governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan had to inaugurate eight girls.five boys schools,NADRA office,Sub-divisional Tirah administration office and a governor Model school in Tirah Maidan.
Tirah residents reject the officials claims say that they were not provided any facilities in Tirah Maidan.Elders in Maidan said they were waiting the governor visit which could gives them a hope of being citizens of Pakistan but it was postponeded on themean time when they were setting in the Pendal.
 
Malik Shah Adamkhel said they first want in their area.He adds that residents not trust their elders as non of the promises made by the government fulfilled so far.Shah said that permits have been issued to them to transport diesel and fertilizers but Army checkposts not allow it.He said without diesel and fertilizers they can not grow crops.
" Pakistani government not considering us as Pakistani nationals,if the case is so then  permit us to go to Afghanistan", Malik Shah expresses. He said they are lacking, good health facilities,children have no proper schooling and their women still give birth to children in homes. Malik Shah said that when they returned from IDPs camps they constituted "Village Defence Committees (VDCs) on the support of the government.Shah clams that dozens of youth volutarrelly join VDC and side by side with Pakistan Army fought militants and anti-state elements in Tirah valley.He said they were promised to regularize the volunteers but only a dream for them.
Another elder,Misal Khan Bar Qambarkhel,rejects the officials claims that schools,health facilities and communication facilities only exist in official record but ground realities are different.He said if the people were not provided health centres ,schools and communication facilities would cause further disparity and ignorance among the inhabitants. He challenged the Agency Education Officer tall claims and said that show them the state-run schools on ground.He said that there were only three primary schools in Tirah Maidan before 9/11 incident that have been destroyed in during the decade long conflict. The elders said that for the first time they see education,health and other officials in Tirah Maidan in the last ten years. " There is no primary school for 4,000 population in Bar Qambarkhel area of Tirah Maidan which is a question mark for the Fata education department.

 

The Khyber Agency political Agent and his staff is committed to initiate mega projects with the support of Pak-Army in Tirah valley to streamline the area where people live a peaceful life but it would not be possible within a few months.Donor agencies and Pak-Army if consistently work on the rehabilitation,reconstruction and facilitation of Tirah IDPs would support its people to discourage militancy and will promote tourism to Tirah valley which locally known small Switzerland.
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