September 8th, 2020
Internally displaced people (IDPs) of the Teera Koki Khel (Khyber Pukhtunkhwa) area have been staging sit-ins outside the historical Khyber Pass gate for almost two months now.
In addition to the IDPs, the protest camp is also being attended by several political bigwigs, human rights activists, tribal leaders, and other respected personalities of the region. People from all walks of life have come to show solidarity with the protesting IDPs in their hour of need.
The primary purpose of the protest camp has been to pressure the local authorities into expediting the process of resettlement of people who have been displaced by the war on terror. The protestors have been waiting to go back to their homes for the last 10 years but now their patience has run out.
The protestors say that they left their homes for the security of the country according to what they had been told by the Pakistan army at the time. But to date there seems to have been no ray of hope in returning home. Since the last 10 years, they have been living a life of misery and despite all their sacrifices, the authorities have not even officially designated them as IDPs.
Because they do not have IDP status, they are not eligible for any government aid announced for IDPs.
The protestors claim that all houses in the valley of Teera Raajgal have been destroyed as a result of the military operation against the Taliban. Entire markets have been razed to the ground. Protestors also claim that all IDP’s from the Malakand tribal areas have been resettled but residents of Teera Raajgal are being neglected by the authorities.
Dawood Shah Afridi, President of the Qabalistan Tahaffuz Movement (QTM), claims that officials have never seriously tried to address the issue of Teera residents.
“Three years ago the military establishment announced that the Teera area has been completely cleared. But despite repeated announcements like these we are not even allowed to visit our homeland let alone re-settle there,” says Dawood Shah Afridi.
Zarghoon Shah Afridi, President of the Jamrood Political Alliance (JPA) and a local leader of the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) says that Teera residents have made immense sacrifices for their country but even after a decade has gone by they are not being resettled. Zarghoon has been protesting along with the affectees from day one of the protest camp.
“A majority of the tribes displaced as a result of the military operation have already been re-settled. This issue is unique to the Koki Khel tribe. All we demand is fair and balanced treatment just like everyone”, says Zarghoon.
Zarghoon also claims that the protests will continue until the legitimate demands of the protestors are met.
“Our entire area has been destroyed. We demand that we be awarded rations, the Rs12,000 package we were promised, and tents because the climate of our area is very harsh. We cannot live under the open sky. Additionally, the army has ‘taken over’ pieces of land in our area, we want that land back because it is our right, it is our home,” says one protestor present at the camp.
“The primary issue being faced by our people is that of residence. If they have announced that we are cleared then why are we not being allowed to go home?” questions an elderly man.
Meanwhile, Jawad Ali Shah, Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Jamrood district has claimed that the area has not yet been completely cleared of militants, and this is why authorities have not been able to begin resettlement efforts. He claims that as soon as the area is cleared the IDPs will be sent home.
“The Raajgal Teera area has been cleared but militant presence is not entirely gone. The state cannot take responsibility for the safety of these people if they go back. This is why we are stopping them from returning,” says Jawad Ali Shah.
Almost 20,000 people left their homes in Teera when the operation began. Today it seems that they too have become forgotten citizens.