In Naya Pakistan, human beings are forced to live in caves

In Naya Pakistan, human beings are forced to live in caves

This story first appeared in Voice Pk

Around 12,000 families from the Rajgal valley in Tirah have been living in caves for the past decade, displaced by the long and arduous war against militants. They are not recognized as IDPs & therefore do not benefit from govt’s aid program.

Around 12,000 families have been living in extreme poverty for the past decade in the Rajgal area of Tirah in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But they were not born poor or homes less, there was a time when they had homes and livelihoods, but the military operations carried out in the area to flush out militants have left them without even a roof over their heads. These destitute families, who lost their homes during the war against terrorism, were never declared internally displaced persons (IDPs) and were therefore left out of the government’s aid programs.

A resident of the Koki Khel, Shehzad, and his family have made a rudimentary residence for themselves within a cave in Warmando Mela, where they have spent the last decade of their lives. With ten members in the family, they have managed to survive through daily labor work which nets them a pitiful Rs. 500.

Shehzad and his wife were forced into this life barely a year after they had married when the security situation in the region began to deteriorate. His wife gave birth to their children within the very cave they reside in – without any access to basic health facilities. it is the norm for women in these areas to deliver children within caves. The women are only taken to a nearby hospital in Jamrud or Peshawar when they develop complications during their pregnancies.

Caves in Toda Maila, Warmando Maila, Ali Masjid, Sur Kamar, Ghalo Mela, Chappar, and Koper Tangi in Jamrud are now homes to thousands of homeless, destitute families like that of Shehzad’s. And their miseries are not expected to end soon – authorities state that Rajgal has yet to be declared safe and that residents should not yet return. It seems that for the foreseeable future Shehzad and his family must live in rocky tunnels.

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About SAWM Team

South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) is a network of women media professionals in South Asia. SAWM works for freedom of press, increased participation of women in the media, a gender-sensitive work environment and a gender-equal outlook in the media. Launched in April 2008, SAWM’s central secretariat is in Lahore, Pakistan and the association has country chapters in eight members of SAARC. SAWM helps women working in media to network across borders, and with international rights organizations, to assert their rights and defend their interests.