Last Updated: Friday, 31 October 2014, 13:33 GMT

Pakistan: No way back to Bajaur

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 7 February 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Pakistan: No way back to Bajaur, 7 February 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b71214b1e.html [accessed 31 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ISLAMABAD, 7 February 2010 (IRIN) - On a pavement in Islamabad several men sit with small stands and boxes of the equipment they need to mend shoes. All are from the Bajaur tribal area on the Pakistani-Afghan border, where fighting has continued between militants and the Pakistan army since August 2008.

"We fled in early 2009, to live with relatives near Peshawar. But it has now been over a year, and I must find a way to stand on my own feet," Faizan Khan, 35, one of the men now trying his hand as a cobbler, told IRIN.

Some media reports said a fresh wave of displacements took place over the last few days, after "about 4,000" people reportedly fled villages in the Mamond and Banda areas of Bajaur following renewed fighting, but Babar Baloch, public information officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said there were no confirmed reports or figures "so far".

Around 250,000 people were still displaced from Bajaur at the end of 2009, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Little hope of an early return

The new wave of unrest has convinced those who had moved away earlier that there is little hope of an early return.

Faizan said he had to enrol his children in school, and hoped his daughter, Rida Meena, would also be able to resume learning after a break of two years. 

Schools in Bajaur have opened only sporadically since 2008. Seventy-four institutions are reported to have been destroyed by militants, affecting the education of some 50,000 children, according to some media reports, and schools that had opened briefly have now shut again because of the latest hostilities.

Gul Rehman, education officer for Bajaur, told IRIN from Khar, the principal city of Bajaur: "The Taliban have blown up many schools but we are trying to keep education going, in tents and so on."

He also said many teachers had gone to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

However, Yasmin Mamond Khan, 30, a father of four, said "I have been to Jallozai and other large camps [for IDPs]. The facilities are inadequate."

Like other IDPs from troubled northern areas, he said he was hoping to settle "somewhere outside Bajaur" with his family, and is currently looking at job prospects in Peshawar, Islamabad and other places.

"I am an automobile mechanic, but there is discrimination against tribal people because they think we are militants. I want work so my children can go to school," Yasmin Mamond said.

Preparing for the long haul

Other IDPs, too, say they have little choice but to consider a life away from home. "I have cousins in Karachi. They say they can find work for me there, but I would like to be based nearer home even if it looks like we may not be able to return for years - perhaps never at all," said Rashid Khan, a baker.

He said the IDPs had "initially hoped" calm would return quickly to Bajaur, but now believe it "could be months or even years" before fighting ends.

Military operations continue in northern areas, and military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas has said they will go on till "the Taliban are defeated".

There are other problems as well. "Due to the security situation many professionals have fled. They include teachers. Female teachers have in some cases given up working because of the militant threat. I want my daughter to get a good education, and this is now possible only outside Bajaur," Faizan said.

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