IDPs in search of shelter again

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the troubled North Waziristan Agency are finding it hard to find a place for shelter after their eviction from the buildings of government-run schools.

The IDPs were residing in the buildings of 1,400 government schools after their displacement from North Waziristan Agency when a military operation was launched there against militants on June 18.

Of these 1400 schools, around 90 were in Bannu and the rest were in Karak and Lakki Marwat. The deadline of Aug 10 was set for the IDPs to vacate the school buildings as summer vacations were about end and schools would be reopened on September 1.

After the expiry of the deadline, the IDPs, who were given a meagre amount of Rs3,000 as monthly house rent, were shocked to know the rents of the dingy houses.

Nasrullah, a resident of Miramshah, took 14 member of his family to Khwaza Khela village in Swat. He rented a four-room house for Rs12,000 per month.

“Even our bathroom was bigger than a room in this house,” said Mr Wazir, who once lived in a castle-like house in Miramshah having 11 spacious rooms. However, he said, the people of Swat, who themselves had experienced the hardships of displacement during a military operation against militants in 2009, were sympathetic.

The situation in Bannu and Peshawar, the cities with a huge concentration of displaced persons from the tribal areas in its vicinity, is worse. The rent package of Rs3,000 per month is quite low to rent a decent place for a family in a city like Peshawar.

After facing problems in accommodating their families in rented houses or the homes of relatives in Bannu, many IDPs started looking for houses on rent in big cities. High rent of houses is one of the major problems of the displaced families of North Waziristan.

“I have rented a three-room house for Rs5,000 per month and sent some of the family members to Rawalpindi where we have rented a house of the same size for monthly rent of Rs8,000,” said Gul wazir, who has a big family of around 120 people.

“Rents have gone up in Hayatabad Township,” said Hameed Khan, a property dealer in the township, which is a posh locality out of the reach of the displaced persons, who have left behind all their belongings and most of them are dependent on government’s assistance.

“The government should either increase the rent package for the IDPs or let us go back home as soon as possible,” said Nasir Khan, a tribal elder from North Waziristan.

He said that there were not enough housing units available on rent and that too for such a meagre amount.

The tribal elder said that people were reluctant to leave the government school buildings as it was the only shelter they were left with.

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and the uprooted comprehend,” said Wallace Stegner, a historian. The fact is dawning upon the homeless Waziristan people, who never faced such a situation before.

Published in Dawn

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