HAD there not been ‘notorious’ Mullah Toofan, no one would have heard about Joogi area.
Lying in the extreme northeastern corner of central Kurram, Joogi was a safe haven for Mullah Toofan and his associates. Their presence in this God-forsaken area brought it into military’s notice.
Joogi, situated at about 8,000 feet height in the foothills of Spin Ghar (white mountain), was in the headlines after Taliban were driven out of their stronghold following a successful military operation in July 2011. Joogi can be likened to Mars where signs of life exist, but the human souls have rare access to basic amenities.Surrounded by snowy peaks, dwellers of this secluded valley are at the mercy of nature. They have very little access to basic needs like health and education. Roads, transport, electricity and telephone don’t exist.
To chase militants, army built a shingle road up to Pakha Kalli for troops’ movement. This zigzag and bumpy track is only fit for 4x4-pickup trucks or land-rovers. Sticky slush makes driving risky on this dirt track.
The area usually remains cut off in chilly winter season, because of heavy snowfall. Local people say that about four feet snow falls in the area. People raise livestock and grow maize, walnuts and Bhung (hashish) for their own consumption.
There was a two-room primary school for boys in Pakha Kalli that was destroyed by militants. Girls are still deprived of their right to get education.
An under-construction college for boys in central Kurram has been vandalised completely. Illiteracy among youth, both male and female, is growing in the area that in itself is a serious issue for the society.
Local people, who recently returned to their destroyed houses, said that there was no hospital or basic health unit in the area.
“People go down to Sadda town in lower Kurram for treatment if they can afford,” said Gul Zamir, a resident of Pakha Kalli.
Jingoist supporters of Mullah Toofan, according to military authorities, have not only destroyed state property but also looted and destroyed properties of the local tribal people.
An army officer said that around 1,500 militants including foreigners were operating in central Kurram. They were trained for guerrilla warfare, making and planting improvised explosive devices and landmines, he said.
Militancy and violence has affected total 36 villages in the area, but the government is yet to start damage need assessment (DNA) survey of the area. Officials said that DNA was prerequisite for launching rehabilitation and reconstruction process.
Militancy affected people of Joogi and other parts of central Kurram are leading terrible life since they have returned to their homes. They don’t have winterised tents as their mud-houses had been burnt. Some of them have been provided tents and sheets to protect themselves from tough weather condition where mercury often dips to minus nine degree Celsius.
“I sent my family back to Sadda because children can’t live in thin tent. They will die if I bring them back in this condition,” said Noor Matt Khan, who recently returned to his burnt abode.
Haji Gul Akbar, an elder of Masoozai tribe, said that people had lost shelter owing to the conflict and they had very limited resources to rebuild their destroyed houses.
“People will be thankful if government and world community help them. Otherwise we will wait for Allah’s mercy,” he said.
An official admits that militancy-affected people of central Kurram had not been treated like internally displaced persons of Mohmand and Bajaur agencies or Malakand division. The affected people in these areas were paid Rs25,000 cash return package and Rs300,000 for reconstruction of their damaged properties.
But IDPs from central Kurram have not been paid return package and compensation for their damaged houses. The federal government is ignoring these people’s sacrifices, leaving them at the mercy of foreign relief bodies. Local parliamentarians have also turned their back.
Political Agent Yousaf Rahim said that those families, whose relatives were killed in violence, had received cash compensation so far.
A source in Fata Disaster Management Authority in Peshawar said that government had agreed in principle to pay Rs25,000 return package to IDPs from central Kurram, but there was no chance to pay them compensation for their damaged houses.
Amir Rehman, hailing from Joogi, said that militants targeted his family for supporting security forces. He said that they set 14 houses on fire besides killing his father and two other family members. “I have yet to find body of my father and two relatives,” he said.
Military officers in the conflict zone also were confused about the government’s lukewarm response to the condition of violence-stricken people and insisted that civil administration should come forward to take its responsibilities. “Government should relinquish troops from Kurram as soon as possible to move to Orakzai or any other area,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.