Not floating but flailing

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BANNU: A 4×4 pick up is ready to transport women, children and men, the old and the poor, from Mama Ziartat, a village in Tehsil Datta Khel in North Waziristan (NW)to Bannu. The bus will first go to Khost in Afghanistan and using the Kurrum Agency highway will come back to Bannu in Pakistan.

This detour is inevitable since all other roads leading to Bannu from Datta Khel are close due to the ongoing Military Operation Zarb-e-Azb in NW.

Most of the people in the bus are sick.  They are going to Bannu for medical check-up. Others are travelling to fulfill different needs.

It is a very uncomfortable journey. The pick-up is full to its capacity.  Usually it takes two to three nights to reach Bannu, but the travelers have nothing except water bottles and pieces of dry bread to keep them warm and nourished.

The route is not only uncomfortable but expensive as well. Normally, from Datta Khel to Bannu it costs Rs 500 per person.  Since the new route is not only longish but involves two different destinations, the cost goes up to Rs 3000 per person.

“We have been waiting for the last one week for this vehicle to take our ailing ones to doctors in Bannu and Peshawar,” one of the travelers Abid Khan tells News Lens Pakistan. He adds that all health facilities in Datta Khel have stopped functioning since the start of the operation.

“We have no doctors in Datta Khel. Many of our people have died so far because of the absence of proper medication,” Abid Khan tells the News Lens Pakistan.

He says the worst comes when women are driven miles for delivery. The irony is that even in Bannu or Peshawar specialists are not available for the patients arriving from NW.

For mild illness, we depend on quack in our village, Mama Ziarat.

Datta Khel is one of those few areas of North Waziristan (NW) where people can still be found; unlike Mirali and Mirnshah, which have been fully evacuated in the wake of the military operation.

Those living in Datta Khel are as miserable as the Internally Displaced People, living in Bannu in a makeshift arrangement.

Almost all the schools have been shut down as most of the teachers have migrated from NW.

Another resident of Datta Khel, Azam Khan regrets staying back instead of migrating to safer place.

“We stayed back because the government told us so. Now the government has turned its back on us. In the absence of proper food and medication, we are leading a miserable life. Our children cannot go to school. Life has come to a standstill,” Azam laments.

About 0.5 million people are still living in Datta Khel, Razmak, Dosali and Garyoum areas of NW.

“Some time we buy tomato as expensive as Rs 300 per kilo. On many occasions we even go to sleep without food,” says Malik Anwar Khan from Razmak.

“Terror struck us when jet planes cross this part of NW or when the sound of shelling comes from the neighboring areas. We are no more normal people. Many among us have developed psychiatric problems,” says Azam.

“It is hard to remember when we last had a sound sleep. Nor can we recall when we last freely moved around.  We are besieged by security forces and one has to be very careful in one’s actions, lest the security forces take one as a suspect,” Azam says.

Datta Khel and other areas are mostly under curfew. The residents are not allowed to move freely. Often during curfew the forces issue shoot orders on violation of curfew no matter how serious the emergency is—someone is seriously ill, injured, maternity problem or any other kind of emergency. There are checkpoints in the whole of the area after each kilometer distance and the forces are deployed on all the tops of the nearby hills making the residents practically detained inside their houses.

The worst victims are the women of NW.  Unlike men, who somehow manage to move around, they are completely locked inside their homes. Most of these women have developed depressive disorder.

Even in this gloom, the residents of Datta Khel are happy to be away from the scorching heat of Bunnu. Datta Khel, Razmak and Shawl have pleasant weather even in summers

“Thanks god we have good weather in summers here. This is the reason why we feel better than our migrated brothers,” says Mailk Nawar Khan another resident of Datta Khel.

Not allowed to talk to the media, the political administrator, on the condition of anonymity tells New Lens Pakistan that the government supplies Wheat flour, edible oils, vegetable, fruits and other necessities of life to the people left behind.

“They must not forget that they are living amidst war. Asking for an ideal situation during war is nonsense,” says the official.

But the people are not happy with the facilities provided to them. According to the residents the edibles given to them hardly helps them keep the body and soul together.

“We don’t need only tomatoes and potatoes, rather we need health facilities and our children need to go to schools. It is almost one year since they have stopped going to school,” says Rashid a resident of Dossali Tehsil.

He adds that they are practically living like prisoners in their own homes for the last one year.

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