Feature: Free from fear, domestically displaced Pakistani now leads peaceful life in hometown

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-07 09:03:13|Editor: Lifang
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An internally displaced man rests outside his makeshift home in Jalozai near Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, on March 7, 2018. Governor of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber PakhtunKhwa Province, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, said recently that 96 percent of the total displaced people have returned to their native areas in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and repatriation of the remaining 4 percent is in progress. (Xinhua/Saeed Ahmad)

by Raheela Nazir

ISLAMABAD, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Spring is about hope, and for Subhanullah Khan, this spring is a season that dream finally came true, after years of being displaced due to militancy in his hometown in northwestern Pakistan.

"I had no hope that life would come back to normal ever again," said the 45-year-old, who fled the country's northwestern North Waziristan with his five children in June 2014 ahead of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a major offensive by Pakistani forces against militant groups in tribal areas.

About four years back, Khan had only three days to leave his hometown after news said that the offensive will be launched. "We left everything in our homes. There were not enough vehicles to carry people, so most of us left for Bannu by feet and then I with my family travelled to Peshawar to live with one of our relatives," Khan told Xinhua.

"All we wanted to do is go back home as early as possible as life was not easy as internally displaced persons. We faced a lot of difficulties after displacement," he said.

A decade-long militant insurgency in the northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan and subsequent military operations coupled with natural disasters have displaced millions of people from their native towns, resulting in the greatest humanitarian crisis in the country's history.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a total of 5.3 million people in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been displaced as a consequence of counter-terrorism operations since 2008.

However, most of the domestically displaced have returned home after the restoration of peace in these areas.

Governor of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber PakhtunKhwa Province, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, said recently that 96 percent of the total displaced people have returned to their native areas in FATA and repatriation of the remaining 4 percent is in progress.

"Peace has returned to the region after immense sacrifices rendered by the security personnel and tribal people," he said, adding that providing the basic facilities to the people of FATA is an utmost priority of the current government.

Several projects including communication and infrastructure are under process which are expected to be completed soon, Jhagra said.

After years of living as a domestic refugee, Zarar Wazir has returned to a peaceful Bajour Agency, his hometown, and enjoyed a life free from militants, weapons and fear. While talking to Xinhua through telephone, Wazir said that he was stunned to find peace where terrorism and chaos once prevailed.

"Now everything has changed. We have peace, even minor criminals get just punishment. This is the main reason that those who once hesitated to return have come back and life is in full swing."

"Most of our schools are working, hospitals are providing best medical facilities, we have brand-new roads and the government is helping us in the construction of our damaged houses," said Wazir.

After their repatriation, the Pakistani government is focusing on reconstruction and rehabilitation of FATA and tribal people, said a senior official in FATA, adding that "no efforts will be spared to ensure the progress and socio-economic development of tribal areas," calling FATA's economic progress a major government priority.

The FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) said that approximately 80,000 houses are either fully or partially damaged due to militancy in FATA's five agencies.

The FDMA said that 400,000 rupees (about 4,000 U.S. dollars) cash compensation was being paid for fully damaged house and 160,000 rupees (about 1,600 U.S. dollars) for partially damaged house. In addition, all the returned families had been provided with the transport grant of 10,000 rupees (about 100 U.S. dollars) and return cash grant of 25,000 rupees (about 250 U.S. dollars) per family.

The federal government said it has approved different projects worth billions of rupees as part of the ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons of FATA and to rebuild and develop infrastructure facilities there with a greater focus on educational and health facilities. After the completion of major projects, the locals will feel much relieved, according to government officials.

While sitting in a small living room decorated with traditional locally-made rugs and cushions, Khan lauded the efforts of the government for successful repatriation and rehabilitation of locals and praised the Pakistani Army in bringing back peace and normalcy in FATA.

"We can survive with a lack of basic facilities but not without peace, now there are no killings, violence, bombings, kidnappings or threats from anyone. Many thanks to the Pakistani government and army for bringing peace to the region," Khan said.

The middle aged, who is back to his hometown, is happy and hopeful for the future.

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KEY WORDS: Pakistan