Saturday, July 5, 2014

North Waziristan IDPs - the Demonized, Disowned & Destroyed Pukhtoons

By: Shah Zalmay Khan
I      D      P......... Internally Displaced Person.
What comes to mind when you hear this word? Men, women & kids leaving their homes and moving out to other areas for safety of life? Political leaders appealing to the nation to help their brothers & sisters in distress? TV cameras zooming & panning the faces of elderly and kids in filthy rough clothes churning out their stories - for a ratings game? NGOs appealing to foreign govts for aid? What exactly is your inference when you hear the term?
For me, whoever coined this term clearly had no idea of how lame it sounds (especially in context of wars).
People don't just get displaced; they get demonized / disowned / destroyed.
And who knows it better than us - the Pukhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan's officially designated 'Elaqa-e-Gher' (Others' territory) i.e. FATA.
We have seen our homeland (from Bajaur to Waziristan) literally & practically ruined over the past 10-12 years.
And like any other conflict, humans (civilians) have paid the highest price for this war; in man, material and money. Almost 65% of FATA's nearly 7 million population has experienced the misery of leaving their homes & belongings due to this war (most finding their houses/shops bull-dozed upon return). Having gone through the misery myself - my own family had to leave hometown for 6 months during Bajaur operation in 2008 - I feel I can speak with some authority on the subject. Coz I have remained an 'Internally Demonized/Disowned/Destroyed Pukhtoon' myself.
Yes. IDP = 'Internally Demonized/Disowned/Destroyed Pukhtoon'.
No other acronym can explain it better in Pakistan's context. 7 million Pukhtoons from FATA and 4-5 million more from Malakand Division (Swat etc) are a live testimony.
The IDPs issue is in the news 'again' these days. This time it is 500,000+ Dawar and Utmanzai Wazir tribesmen of North Waziristan who have been demonized, disowned and destroyed. Talk show anchors are having a ball, shedding crocodile tears over the 'misery of IDPs' (same folks who did most of the warmongering in the past few months). Many media cameras have found their way to Bannu where majority of the NWA IDPs have taken shelter; in schools, in hujras, in rented houses. For the TV channels, these IDPs mean 5-7 minutes of high-rating Khabarnama news space; for some anchors they mean a 'feel good' social opportunity; and for others it is purely a non-issue. Either way, none can understand what it feels like to be an IDP. Never can.
Ever wondered what it feels like to be an IDP - in your own country?
That moment when jets (own country's jets) start bombing your village and 'Radio Pakistan' informs you that operation has been started in your area (in the name of the Holy Prophet's sword).
That moment when your local mosque loudspeaker announces that govt has ordered to vacate the area within hours.
Those last few hours when you hurriedly run from room to room in an attempt to pack whatever you deem valuable & worthy of salvaging.
The trembling hands of your ageing father and mother feeling each and every inch of the house that they (or perhaps their parents) built over decades.
The sudden hopeless occurrence that no transport whatsoever is available (or affordable) to cover the 50-60 (or even 100) kilometers distance to the nearest safe town/city.
The feeling of loss when you have to chose between household items and valuables that you can manage to carry and ones that you have to leave behind (knowing well that nothing will be left upon return).
The painful cries of your younger siblings or nephews/nieces at the sudden frenzied activity in the house amidst continuous artillery shelling.
The protesting sobs of the younger ones when you have to give them a shut up call as they keep insisting on taking their favourite pet (chick / bird / cat / dog) along.
That painful choice among which of your household livestock to carry along and which to leave behind - just because you can't manage to take them all with you.
That last look at the lock on the gate of your home when your whole family is waiting for you outside the home, ready to embark upon a journey sans destiny.
The pain of having to carry an ailing father or mother or other family member on your back for miles & miles - for they can't walk themselves.
The agony of that lady in the house who is either pregnant or going through immediate post-natal period and who has to be carried on a charpoy like a dead soul in a coffin.
The sheer humiliation of a purdah-dar woman giving birth to a child during the painful journey - with no semblance of privacy or healthcare around. 
Those blinking eyes of your mother and sisters, when you know the 45°C temperature and walking on foot with belongings on the head is testing their best, but they hide them from you - for the fear of slowing down the journey.
Those 1-3 nights during your journey that you (with your family) spend in the open or in hujras/homes of otherwise unknown people.
That momentary feeling of achievement at end of the painful journey when you reach the last check post on your way out of the conflict zone and about to enter the safe town.
That weird feeling when you have to stand in rows for hours in smelting heat to register yourself as an IDP.
That humiliation you feel when the police or FC walas start Lathi Charge on you and other IDPs who grow impatient at the long wait in queues to get ration like beggars.
That shocking de-Pakistanizing moment when you learn that no province of your own country except PUKHTOONkhwa (or for that matter Afghanistan) is ready to own you.
That feeling of uncertainty about when (and if ever) you will be able to go back to your home, your village, your homeland.
Those prayers from Allah for strength; those curses upon rulers and EVERYBODY responsible for your misery.
The feelings of rage at your own existence, your identity and your COUNTRY; the mental trauma and eternal scars on your personality.
Can someone sitting in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi or even Peshawar feel all this? No. Nobody can feel this. Nobody ever feels this and that is why indiscriminate operations are suggested as the remedy for violence and militancy. Year after year; agency after agency; tehsil after tehsil; this same story of sheer pain and humiliation is repeated and no lessons are learnt from the past.
The same media channels who make hue & cry over Rangers shooting a street criminal in Karachi - go into literal bulldozer mode when it comes to FATA. They demand military operations targeting the whole areas - knowing fully well that militants will sneak out safely and lacs of ordinary Pukhtoon tribesmen will be displaced & destroyed in the process. Collective punishment inflicted upon millions of Pukhtoon tribesmen for the sins of few thousand militants.
(Don't draw any parallels here, please. Israel is the only other country that does this - to Palestinians (their enemies). Pakistan does it to its own 2nd-class citizens though).
BTW can anybody imagine Lahore being indiscriminately bombed over the crimes of few Gullu Butts? or Karachi bombed by jets for the crimes of 'Namaloom Afrad'? or the houses of whole population of Faisalabad/Bahawalpur destroyed due to crimes of some LeJ terrorists who attacked GHQ?
Forgive me the spate of anger & drawing parallels. Off-course there is a difference between PAKISTAN and 'Elaqa-e-Gher'. Coming back to the point.
An average tribesman (even a poor one) suffers losses of at least a million rupees (house + furniture + household items + livestock + farming or businesses). And what do they get in return/compensation?
12000 per month as 'Ehsaan' from rulers like the Sharifs (who would gladly spend 40+ billion on a metro in the 'Land Of Five Rivers'). Not even enough to pay for the rented accommodation in most cases.
Is there an end to this? Will the fate of NWA IDPs be the same as those from SWA etc? Remember 300,000+ Mehsud IDPs from SWA are still displaced & not allowed to return to their native areas, even after 5 years of Operation Raah-e-Nijat (2009). Thousands of IDPs from Bara, Tirah, Orakzai, Bajaur and Mohmand have yet to return to their homeland despite lapse of 5-6 years. Will the NWA IDPs meet the same fate? Media will forget them after a few weeks; international and national aid agencies will forget them next and they will stand DESTROYED?
True the federal govt has announced some 'peanuts' for the IDPs. True that PTI's KP govt is trying to help the IDPs within available resources (despite a cold shoulder by federal govt on KP's demands for IDP funds). True that Imran Khan Foundation and many other organizations are trying to help. But is that enough? No it is not.
This has to change now. If Pakistan has to see peace, all this has to change now. And when it comes to CHANGE, our eyes surely look in the direction of the person Pukhtoons trusted with their vote. Yes I refer to Imran Khan.
Dear Imran Khan:
We request you to redefine the agenda of your 14th August Long March. Kindly add the issue of resettlement/return of Pukhtoon tribal IDPs (especially NWA IDPs) to your agenda.
Please demand the federal govt to announce a cut-off date for the return of all IDPs (all FATA agencies) to their homes. Operations can't be allowed to prolong arbitrarily forever. There has to be some sort of a cut-off date. If the govt doesn't address the issue, announce the inclusion of ALL tribal IDPs in your long march on Islamabad. You plan to march on Islamabad with one million? How about including a million IDPs to it? All IDPs towards Islamabad.
The IDPs have been displaced from their homes due to policies / war of federal govt. And since Islamabad is the seat of federal govt, what better occasion than this to force the govt into acting to address the IDPs woes?
As far as the IDPs are concerned, they are already displaced from their homes. They would prefer staying for a few days in the better environment of Islamabad, than in the muddy Bannu or Jalozai. After all Pukhtoon tribesmen are also Pakistanis and they have all the right to live in Islamabad (until federal govt doesn't ensure their safe return to home towns).
Dear Imran Khan:
You can do it. Only you can do it. Otherwise a generation of tribesmen that is growing up as IDPs, will become Pakistan's worst nightmare because they have no school, no health, no skills, no jobs, no hope and perhaps no love for Pakistan.
The only sentiments these Pukhtoon tribal kids are growing up with are HUMILIATION, HAPLESSNESS, HATE and REVENGE.
Dear Pakistan: Buy yourself peace by taking care of these IDPs and ensuring their safe & timely return. Otherwise, how difficult it is for someone to lure tribal kids like this one into becoming suicide bombers? >>>>>>>>>
I rest my case.
Tail piece: Just found this poem on the IDPs issue somewhere. Don't read it - feel it.
The writer is a tribesman from Bajaur Agency (FATA) and tweets at @PTI_FATA .
(No official association with PTI)

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official PTI webpage and is run by a group of volunteers having no official position in PTI. All posts are personal opinions of the bloggers and should, in no way, be taken as official PTI word.
With Regards,
"Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf FATA Volunteers" Team.


  1. Pakistan on the path of disintegration. The first piece to part ways will be Pukhtoons, not Baloachs.
    Punjabis dont understand but a fraction of ignition will put this all on fire.

  2. Nice article except that it conveniently ignores the following:

    1. The de-Pakistanization when foreigner non-native pathans are allowed to settle in Punjab (since 2001, stopped only now) but a reciprocal tolerance for foreigners is not welcome in pathan lands.

    2. The de-Pakistanization when lacs of pathans in tribal areas FAIL to stop THEIR lands from being used a spring board for terrorists

    3. The culture that illiterate, gun totting drug running pathans invariably bring along. You can sugar coat it but you cannot deny it. Once in settled areas the only thing they excel in is crime hence the necessity to keep them away from cities.


  3. Dear Second anonnymous person, please do not make sweeping statements. It is highly insulting to speak about an entire clan of people of whom you have no personal knowledge. You're only perpetuating stereotypes.

    1. Pathan lands are very welcome to foreigners, they are only wary when the foreigners pose a threat to their lives or families
    2. The tribal areads are not responsible for militancy, the Pak army and the ISI are the culprits. Please read any literature on the subject, other than that penned by Pakistani journalists, who paint the army and govt in a favorable light which lies in their interest.
    3. Pathan culture is not exclusively gun toting, They chose to defend their lives and their land from the British and other foriegn invaders (before that). Who sought to lay claim to it.

    A Sincere Pakistani

  4. It is the super hospitality of Pashtoons which was used unfairly to by the foreigner terrorists so 1 and 2 cannot hold at the same time.
    The super civil culture by the law enforcement of the punjab police was seen by the whole world. Pashtoons are the most peaceful nation in the world.

  5. one of the most*

  6. How can we ( overseas.) pakistani donate to help???