Kurram Agency/Peshawar — Ghani Akhtar, resident of Basharah village of Kurram Agency, is a 14 years old school student who lost his hands and eyesight in a land-mine blast during a picnic to the nearby Kurram River. He and his father were the only earners of their family. They had a small vehicle workshop and used to work there to earn money for their family. But after Akhtar Ghani became disabled, his father was forced to stop working at the workshop as he could not run it alone. Now they are helpless to support their family.
After the military operations in Kurram Agency, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) returned faced the danger of hidden land mines when they returned to their home villages. So far, hundreds of local tribes’ families have been affected in blasts of land mines in the Agency.
Shockingly, these landmines were spread in the area by common people for their protection during the sectarian violence during 2007 – 2012. Kurram Agency has been a hotspot of sectarian violence between local Sunni and Shia tribes. Not only military operations but sectarian violence also forced people to be displaced.
Most of the mines were planted by common people to protect themselves.
Local tribesmen say that mines could be found everywhere, in fields, playgrounds, public routs and other places. Many tribal families were reluctant to go back home after peace agreement because of the fear of hidden land mines and toy-bomb in the villages.
A peace deal was entered between the Shia and Sunni sects in 2011 that made them return to their hometowns.
Basharah village of the agency is the most affected where a mine blast victim can be found in every second family.
Akhtar Ghani told Tribal Post that he had a dream to get higher education and fulfil the wishes of his parents. “I wanted to become some great man and support my parents, my whole family but I never imagined that I will not be able to work,” he said and told how he was targeted, “I was with my friends at the picnic sight of Kurram River where we found a toy-shape iron. When I touched it, suddenly it blasted. I could not remember how the shell was blasted,” said Akhtar Ghani.
Mostly schoolchildren were targeted in ‘mine blasts’ as most of the mines were found in playgrounds and surrounding areas of schools.
Kabir Khan, 11 years old school student was a victim of such blast which happened to him near his school. “I was on my way back to home when I saw a toy and picked it up. The next moment I was blown away and as a result I lost my both hands,” he told Tribal Post.
The landmines killed hundreds of local tribes’ persons and turned disable many others. Local people say that many families have no support to survive as landmines dismissed their beloved ones.
Neither government nor non-governmental organizations payed attention to clean the area of mines. Most of the landmines were found in cultivating fields and in foothills near to the villages like Basharah. Farming is a major source of income of the local tribes while they use to bring woods from the nearby mountain foothills.
Janan Gul who was the only support of his family and aged parents was killed in landmine blast. “I was with my son and wife going to bring woods from nearby hill in a vehicle,” his father Shandi Gul told, “Suddenly our vehicle was blown up.” He added that the villagers brought them to nearby clinic. “We were in unconscious state. When I realise, I started asking people about my son but no one could tell me,” he told with tears in his eyes.
Government men defuse landmines only when local people point our where the mines are found.
Nazir Khan and his family are also among those who are the victims of landmine blasts and have no support. He was also blown up by a landmine while working in his crops fields and lost his both legs.
The local administration says that to determine hidden mines was very difficult. However, the administration officials told Tribal Post, that hundreds of mines were defused wherever local people pointed out. But the people demand government to bring ‘mine defusing experts’ and clean the areas of these dangers.
President of the Kurram Disable (Persons) Union, Anwar Shah said while talking to Tribal Post that majority of the landmine victims belong to Central Kurram and most of them did not get any support from the government. “Neither government compensate us, nor the affected people are well aware to approach other humanitarian organizations,” he said.
The victims got no support from the government yet.
Anwar Shah said that cattle of the local people were also badly affected in landmine blasts, as the foothills are full of mines. “It deeply affected life especially economic of those people who live in mountains as they depend on livestock,” he added.
Akhtar Ghani said that government did not compensate him for his treatment. “Doctors told that I can get back my eyesight. I took loan from my relatives to pay for my surgeries but I needed more money while no one came forward to help me,” added Ghani.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is one of the organizations to support the disable persons of Fata. Public Relation Officer ICRC Peshawar, Yaseen Khan told Tribal Post that they provide the disabled persons with the basic needs. “We help them and make sure to reach every victim,” he said.
Managing Director Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Umar Ayub told Tribal Post that they supported many disabled persons form Fata. He added, “Every month we provide artificial organs including arms and legs to 250 victims of mines and other incidents. Majority of them is the mine victims.”
“Due to lack of resources many disables are yet to receive help. Some 1500 disable persons are on waiting list who deserved to be helped and treated,” said Umar Ayub.
According to the sources in Fata Secretariat, it has established facilitation centers for disable people at F.R. Tank, Bajaur, Khyber and Kurram Agency but due to lack of resources, only Bajaur center is functional while the rest are non-functional.
Government and NGOs have launched several awareness campaigns. They informed public how to avoid mine danger through awareness program held in Mosques, Schools, and bazaars. Moreover, they installed banners inscribed with toy bombs picture, and safety guidelines across the Agency. But it was late after the loss of hundreds of lives.
RAZA DOTANI from Peshawar has also contributed to the story.