Life in Waziristan, in the Presence of Drones and Militancy.
Ihsan Dawar. +92 345 922 32 38(North Waziristan Agency Pakistan)
Since the day when the first drone attack was conducted in Shakai, South Waziristan Agency when the then-militant commander Nek Muhammad was killed, almost 300 drone attacks have been conducted in the tribal areas of Pakistan. North Waziristan has proved to be the worst prey of these attacks and 85 percent of drone attacks are made in North Waziristan during the last five years. No doubt, some prominent leaders of Al Qaeda and Taliban have been killed in the attacks (as per the claims of the US state departments and media reports) but also a good number of innocent citizens are also among the victims of these drone attacks. A former CIA worker has admitted recently that 35 percent of innocent people are killed in the attacks.
Sorrowfully, women and children were among the victims March 17; 2011, it was condemned universally when a Jirga was targeted in Datta Khel, an area contiguous to the border of Afghanistan. In that attack 45 people including a good number of tribal elders was also among the killed ones while the rest were said to be the participants of the Jirga who were gathered to resolve a local issue over the ownership of a piece of land..
Drone attacks are so frequent in North Waziristan that some time three or four attacks are also conducted in less than 24 hours in various parts of NWA. Locals of NWA can see at a time more than a dozen of drone planes flying over their heads non stop during day and night time which has resulted serious consequences upon the routine life of the common man in the restive agency.
Doctors of psychology are of the opinion that as much as 80 percent of the residents of Waziristan have become psychiatric patients.
“Frequent drone attacks and growing militancy, poor law and order situation and kidnapping by the militants in a broad day light, killing of people on the allegations of spying and above all the fear of military operations all contribute to serious psychological problems to the people of Waziristan”
So says Dr.Munir Ahmad Dawar, professor of psychiatry in Gomal medical college D.I.Khan, adding that poor economy and joblessness are also main factors in making life uncomfortable for the people of Waziristan.
He is of the opinion that almost 5 percent has gone to the stage of schizophrenia which is an acute state of mental disorders.
The question here arises that how people live in this state of affairs?
The answer to this question was asked from people belonging to various walks of life in North Waziristan Agency.
Wali Muhammad 46, who is a resident of MirAli and is a farmer by profession told All voices that they were bound to live under the prevailing circumstances. “Where we will go to have escape of this situation? We are poor people and live upon cultivation of our land. If we leave our area, which should be, how we will live in Bannu or Peshawar with out any resources,” he said, adding that those who can afford to live out of Waziristan have left earlier.
“We live in a state of frustration and disappointment and don’t know what our future would be if things are not come to the right track” said Wali while replying to a query. He also said that people are totally in dark about the policy of the state and they don’t know why they have been kept under a regular pressure for the last one decade.
Another citizen of North Waziristan Gul Muhammad, 32, told that people were bound to do with the existing circumstances, although every walk of life was in a state of decay.
“Nothing has remained safe, we lost of our culture, our business, education, health and social life” said Gul Muhammad.
He also revealed that a lot of well off people had migrated form NWA and shifted their capital from North Waziristan.
“Situation here always remains uncertain, how one can invest here if he is not sure about tomorrow, that’s why most of the youth are jobless and inclined to militancy but the high ups have turned a deaf ear to all these” said Gul adding that if Government did not take serious steps to pull out people from this situation, it will have long lasting effects over the social and economical life of Waziristan.
Arafat, 17, is a second-year student in government at College MirAli. He admits that he had not taken even a single period during the last academic year in his college.
“We don’t see teachers in the college as there is no check over them and we have to go to Bannu or Peshawar for tuition in spite of too many financial problems” said Arafat.
He added that some students who come from well off back ground were studying in Peshawar and Bannu and other parts of the country.
“How we can compete to those who never miss a period in the whole of the academic year while we don’t find even a single period during this time” said Arafat adding that this state of affairs leads to yet another problem of class difference in our society.
Apart from Education, health, business and such like other part of the tribal life, the most alarming thing is that the specific culture and civilization which kept the tribal people unique in their life style, has totally been destroyed during the last one decade.
Hujra was the center of the village communal life but now one can hardly see a hujra in tribal village. Every one has constructed their own guest houses and the collective passion and soul in the tribal life has almost disappeared.
“It is very hard to believe for me that things would change in such a way as we see to day” says Malik Mamoor chief of Toori Khel tribe.
“With the growing militancy, the respect for elders, Jirga system and unity of the tribes have lost” Malik says, adding that militant commanders have become lords of the tribes while the elders have gone in the background.
He told Allvoices that some were shot dead in target killings while others fled from Waziristan and are residing in the settled areas as safety for life is prior to every thing.
“When it comes to your life, you have to think for your safety instead of your status” Malik added.
Over the question as to how the culture and civilization be resorted once again, Malik Mamoor is not hopeful.
“It is hard to restore all those things we lost in the past ten years as there have been dire changes in the social life of the tribesmen” he said adding that after the militancy comes to an end social life can be resorted up to some extent but not fully.
As to what would be the possible solution to the problem, Mr. Wali Muhammad suggested for the government and the elders of the area to have a meeting over the issue and both sides should disclose their secrets.
“Government should make clear its position as to why people have been kept under a constant wave of terror and on the same way the elders should also make clear their position as to how and on what conditions they would support the policies of the govt in the area” says Wali Muhammad.
He added that in that case people would be clear over the future and they would start living in a ray of hope and it will help them come out of the current state of disappointment.
Gul Muhammad said that there should be Jirga and talks between the govt and the locals (elders) as to how they can seek a durable solution to the problem.
“There have been a lot of blood shed, target killing, massive displacements, and a lot of innocent people have been killed in the war against terror in one way or another, it should be stopped any more” says Gul Muhammad adding that the only solution is to hold talks among the authorities (Policy makers) and the real stake holders of the tribal area.
Arafat is of the opinion that the only solution to the problem is to educate the people of the tribal areas which will help in eradicating militancy from the area.
“I strongly believe that peace can be brought only when we have good education and high literacy rate” said Arafat adding that there will be no more need to drone attacks and no militancy can flourish in an educated society.
Whatever the case may be, it is a fact that life of the common man in the Tribal areas of Pakistan with North Waziristan in specific has been affected so badly that many people who can afford, have left the area and are dwelling in the settled areas like Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar.
They have rented houses, bought properties and settled there on permanent basses which have left long lasting effects over the economy, education, health, social life and development of the area.
If government and other stake holders of the area did not show seriousness over the issue, it is sure that the area will become barren of talent and potential people will migrate form here.