September 26th, 2020

By Farzana Ali 


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.