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Police sit atop an armoured vehicle after clashes between two groups in the Bara area of the Khyber tribal region. — Photo by Reuters/File

LANDI KOTAL, Oct 14: The commandant of Khyber Rifles on Sunday ordered about 30 Christian families, residing in the local army camp, to vacate their houses immediately.

The orders were verbally conveyed to the Christian families when they were assembling in a church, situated in the camp, for Sunday service. “Khyber Rifles personnel, wielding sticks and batons, ordered us to vacate our houses immediately,” Arshad Masih, chairman of Christian community in Khyber Agency, told media persons.

He said that only those Christians, who were government employees, were allowed to stay in their homes while the rest were ordered to pack their belongings and leave the army camp forthwith.

None of the Khyber Rifles officials was available for comments, however, an official of the local political administration told Dawn that nearly 30 families, who were residing in the camp without any official permission, were ordered to leave.

“The local political administration has nothing to do with the expulsion of Christians from the army camp as the area is not under its control,” the official said.

He added that Khyber Rifles issued several notices to those Christian families in the recent past but they didn’t pay any heed to them.

The official said that only government employees were allowed to stay and reside inside the army camp. They were no more entitled to live in the army camp as they had retired from service, he added.

Meanwhile, the Christian families staged a protest demonstration outside Landi Kotal Press Club on Sunday. Holding banners and placards, they appealed to the officials concerned to show mercy on them as they had no other place to go.

Talking to journalists, Arshad Masih said that most of them had been residing in the army camp for almost a century as their forefathers migrated from other parts of the country in 1914, before the creation of Pakistan, and settled down in Landi Kotal.

He said that they were not entitled to any other job other than that of sweeper. “At present there are only 40 posts of sweepers at the army camp. The rest of us are jobless as we don’t possess tribal domicile and computerised national identity card of Fata,” he lamented.

The protesting Christians said that instead of expelling them from their houses, the government should grant them permission to buy property in the tribal areas and allocate quota to them in government jobs.

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