BANNU - Ali Tur Khan, a famous playful and witty person of Mir Ali, has covered a distance of around 42 kilometres to reach FR Bakka Khel, an area situated on the edge of district Bannu.
He usually roamed around Mir Ali Bazaar, while carrying his umbrella with him, and amused and entertained the tribesmen by his witty remarks. He would be surrounded by tribesmen and especially the youngsters in the evening at some local Malak’s Hujra.
While wearing old black slippers, sky blue baggy shalwar qameez and white turban, Ali Tur Khan is also carrying his beloved goat along which is his whole universe during this adventure. His wife and four children could not dare travel to Bannu district along with him on foot so they remained in their home in Hormaz village in Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan. “This goat is more loyal than my wife, she left me to travel alone while the animal is accompanying me in this hazardous journey,” Khan passed a witty remark while describing his goat. This scribe found him taking rest near Tableeghi Markza in Bakka Khel inside a petrol station.
The happy-go-lucky Khan, who is carrying luggage over his head in jute sack bag full of his clothes, has no signs of worries over his face apart from tiredness. Apart from Pashto, his mother tongue, Khan, who is in his early 70s, also speaks faulty Urdu and Punjabi and a few sentences of English and Arabic. The tribesmen usually enjoyed his witty remarks and his conversation when he mixed all these languages and coined a new language that is beyond others’ comprehension except him. Even at the petrol pump the tribesmen had surrounded him and he was amusing them despite travelling for entire two days. “Hahahaha”, he simply replied when this scribe asked him why he did not take shelter in a government established camp for IDPs. After taking some water he started his journey towards Bannu city that was not so far away from him.
Khan is not an exceptional case amongst the tribesmen who are coming on Bannu-Miranshah Road on foot. Thousands of people after fleeing the troubled North Waziristan are arriving along with their luggage and goods on foot. They include old people, women and children. They are also bringing their animals and pets with them while moving slowly and gradually towards their unknown destinations. The poor could not afford the high fares of vehicles to transport their families and animals.
For all the tribesmen using Bannu-Miranshah route, Bannu town is the ultimate destination. North Waziristan, the abode of Utmanzai and Dawar tribesmen, according to estimates, has a population of 840,000. After the air strikes on the hideouts of militants in the targeted areas of North Waziristan Agency by Pak Army on 21st May 2014, mass exodus of the population started from the area on 22nd May 2014.
FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) has established IDPs registration and facilitation point at Saidgai Check Post on Bannu-Miranshah Road and so far 13,594 displaced families with 16,7197 individuals have been registered and facilitated up to 20th June 2014.
The area of Bakka Khel has infertile land and there is hardly trees grown over the roadsides that make it difficult for the fleeing people to take rest en route to Bannu under shade. The Wazir tribesmen of Bakka Khel are helping the displaced people who are fleeing their homes.
Tribesmen representing Narmi Khel Wazir tribe have established some points for the displaced people of North Waziristan at Bakka Khel Mandi. They provide the arriving people with water, juices and food during lunch and dinner. “We have raised donations within our tribe and help the displaced people as long as we can do,” said a volunteer Baz Muhammad.
Due to the tradition of the tribesmen of North Waziristan they never take shelter in government established camps and prefer to get houses on rent or stay with their relatives in settled areas. However, one of the prime reasons for staying away from government established camps is lack of basic facilities in the camps.
A tribesman told this scribe, “Only seven families have taken shelter in the camp. There are two reasons; firstly Dawar tribesmen always avoid going to government established camps, and secondly the camps lack facilities.”
Some tribesmen were carrying radios hanging to their shoulders while carrying animals or moving with their families on foot. “We listen to radio to know about the situation of North Waziristan. It is the only source of information that makes us able to have some knowledge about at ground situation otherwise we have been cut off with the rest of the world,” said Safeerulah Dawar.
–The writer is a freelance contributor.