Pakistanis driven from Khyber Agency cope with life in camps

By Ashrafuddin Pirzada  |  Nov. 26, 2013 at 6:37 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

Nov. 27, FATA, Pakistan (UPI Next) --

 A decade of deadly factional fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people from the Khyber Agency, located in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border. Militias and the Pakistani army have driven civilians from the region, ripping up fields, and turning schools and roadways into rubble.

Nearly all the tens of thousands of civilians dream of returning home, but have reluctantly settled into camps run by the United Nations, such as Jalozai, 20 miles east of Peshawar.

In 2009, Shanee Gul Afridi, 35, was displaced from Bara Akakhel village.

He said he had "a happy life" there, raising cows and goats and selling milk in the local bazaar, and could afford quality goods for his family.

Today, he said, his family lives in tents and eats poor quality food, using poorly constructed latrines that spread disease.

There are 57,000 people registered in Jalozai camp, created 2009 by U.N. agencies and administered by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.

The camp is so large and established that doctors have delivered 3,000 babies and teachers staff 27 schools, camp administrator Noor Akbar Khan Afridi of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Office said.

It is safer to be in the camp than back home, residents say, although they add they do not feel secure in Jalozai, either. Some months ago, an explosion in a school killed a dozen women and children in an attack that has scared many camp residents.

Primary school teacher Nadia, 27, who uses only one name, said families are afraid to send their children to school. She said pupils are so frightened they run outside after dropping their bags in classrooms.

"If the camp does not try to motivate parents," she told UPI next, the schools for these children "will close up soon."

Despite longing to return to their villages, some of the displaced are determined to live their lives as fully as possible.

Sameen Khan, 19, recently married 15-year-old Shagufta Khan, a school teacher in the camp. He says they celebrated their wedding with a ceremony and put on a musical program in a large tent. Khan said he is happy with a young and educated wife but is reluctant to have children after last year's school bombing.

Inayat Afridi, 22, said he did not feel a major change in his life after coming to the camp. He was a laborer before, and does the same thing now, often small construction projects, in Jalozai. He said it is harder to feed his family in the camp, and is lonely far from his home town.

"We did not come here willingly but we were compelled to leave homes and other properties due to the fighting," Afridi told UPI Next.

Sher Ali, 40, is increasingly uncomfortable in Jalozai.

He said family members line up for hours for rations every day.

"We had fertile lands ... where we were growing crops, which were enough for a year," he told you UPI Next, "but we are begging from others in the camp."


Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending Stories