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Displaced people, animals suffer alike

Updated July 02, 2014


A lone woman displaced from North Waziristan arrives in Bannu with her most valuable possession — a donkey. — Dawn
A lone woman displaced from North Waziristan arrives in Bannu with her most valuable possession — a donkey. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: Looking at the images of internally displaced persons moving out of the troubled North Waziristan Agency and the animals accompanying them, one struggles to decide whose condition is worse.

Towards Saidgi, the point for registration of IDPs for entry to Bannu, a bewildered woman walked with her donkey, which was so loaded with household things that its face is hardly visible.

Misery was quite visible on the faces of the two, who had a long difficult journey from the troubled tribal area.

The woman and her animal had to cover long distances to reach the place, where more heat, hunger and misery of homelessness awaited them.

Officials say 1.5m cattle at risk, could perish

The donkey turned out to be a real beast of burden as it safely brought the owner’s belongings to Bannu.

However, most of the fleeing tribesmen left other animals behind after they’re given a few days to evacuate North Waziristan ahead of the launch of a military operation against militants.

Among such animals were cows, which are unable to cover long distances.

Some tried in vain to take cows along as either the cattle fractured their legs or died of much exhaustion to the misery of their owners.

The tribesmen, who had left cows behind, said their animals would be alive and would be calling them in desperation after not seeing them around for long.

“I let all my 10 cows loose after their refused to come along,” said Gul Wazir with misty eyes while remembering his animals he ‘loved like my children.’

“I wonder if cows are alive,” said the Miramshah tribesman, who had to flee home with extended family. Now, he has sorrows only.The tribesmen, who tried to bring their cattle along, also went through an ordeal.

They had to sell them off very cheap as the displaced persons needed money and had no fodder to feed their cattle.

Mohammad Qasim of Mirali said each of his four cows valued more than Rs0.1 million but he had to sell them all for Rs0.1 million only before fleeing the area. Mohammad Naeem, another displaced person from Miramshah, narrated what he witnessed on the way.

“Some cows were so exhausted that they lied along the road and refused to move.”

He said he saw the cattle and their owners both in the helpless situation on the roads and that many cows were too tired to walk, while others had broken their legs.

“I couldn’t help but cry when I looked at the cattle dying on the road with no one around to help them. My heart bleeds at the situation,” said Naeem though he didn’t own the cattle.

Another elderly cattle owner, Gul Amin of Miramshah, said he had two cows but he had to leave them behind before fleeing the area.

The entire Miramshah Bazaar was crowded with the cattle lying there. They were exhausted as their owners tried to make them walk but the cattle were too tired and too weak to walk.

Listening to the IDPs, who talked about their cattle left behind, one could feel how they missed their cattle. All IDPs and those who had their cattle with them looked under a lot of stress.

Officials insist 1.5 million cattle heads in North Waziristan are at risk and could perish.

In a visit to Bannu a week after the military operation was launched in North Waziristan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had stated fodder would be provided to the cattle though many animals had already perished.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also recently released Rs104 million to arrange fodder for the animals of IDPs from North Waziristan.

Although the government stepped in to provide fodder, vaccination and other veterinary services to the cattle coming to Bannu, it’s turned out to be too little and too late.

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014