Tirah's troubled terrain

" Sir humarey uppar aasmaan hai, aur neechey zameen hai...hum mitti par sotey hein, aur taarey gintey hein...."

  • Tirah Valley Refugees (Khyber Agency)

"The sky is spread above our heads, and a ground stands below; We sleep on the dirt on the ground and count the stars all night long"

As thousands fled the Tirah Valley (khyber Agency), thousands of dreams were shattered, thousands of homes were destroyed.

Post 9/11, the Taliban found a safe hideout in the Khyber Agency, where the state and Police are non-existent institutions.

By 2007, militants had the entire area under their control. Eventually, the army launched an operation in 2008 in the Khyber Agency, and the attempt to re-establish the state's writ lead to thousands of refugees fleeing to camps in Kohat and Jalozai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A battle still rages in the troubled Tirah Valley, an area once declared "un-invadable" by the British in 1897. The fact that it borders Afghanistan from one side, and Peshawar's outskirts from one side, doesn't help the situation, as many soldiers have been martyred and militants killed.

Now the people of Tirah Valley and Khyber Agency can be found near near Peshawar at the Jalozai Camp, which is Pakistan's largest camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP). Terrorists are not known to attack refugee camps, but there have been instances of them hiding along with refugees to escape being caught.

In March 2013, a car bomb blast killed 15 people and injured 30 people at a food distribution line. Experts observed that the blast may have been a retaliation against a search operation for militants at the camp by the Police and intelligence agencies.

Camps in Jalozai are spread over a large area, depicting a physical chronograph of refugee movement, ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Since then, most from that era have either established themselves as Pakistanis, or have returned in the UN backed repatriation to Afghanistan.

The camps are like a smaller version of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as different camps represent different agencies, which have moved over the years. 16,000 families rise and fall in the hope to return to their lands and rebuild their lives and homes again. Amid the rubble, life, and the battle for survival, continues." - Photos and Text by Saad Sarfraz

Comments (3) (Closed)


Hassan Suhrawardy
Sep 16, 2013 07:21pm

Very Well Addressed. Nice work Saad

Ally Adnan
Sep 17, 2013 09:09am

An excellent piece by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh.

Sadaf Arshad
Sep 19, 2013 09:12am

It is an excellent piece. I think thid kind of photo essays are eye-openers as one get to see the reality very closely. Such issues need huge attention, Well done