At 46, Naseema Nashad is starting her life over, not out of choice but out of necessity. The Afghan woman was just 25 years old when Taliban militants stormed Kabul and her family was forced to flee to neighbouring Pakistan to escape what they knew would be a brutal regime.
They number between two and three million; some have lived in makeshift shelters for just a few months, while others have roots that stretch much further back into history. Most fled to escape war, others simply ran away from joblessness.
Balwan Singh, an 84-year-old shopkeeper living in Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is well past retirement age, but any illusions he may have had about living out his golden years in peace and security have long since been dashed.
The goal is an ambitious one – to deliver a polio-free world by 2018. Towards this end, the multi-sector Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is bringing out the big guns, sparing no expense to ensure that “every last child” is immunised against the crippling disease.
For girls living in northern Pakistan’s sprawling tribal regions, the struggle for education began long before that fateful day when members of the Taliban shot a 15-year-old schoolgirl in the head, and will undoubtedly continue for many years to come.
Between government efforts to wipe out insurgents from Pakistan’s northern, mountainous regions, and the Taliban’s own campaign to exercise power over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the real victims of this conflict are often invisible.
Some fled on foot, others boarded trucks along with luggage, rations and cattle. Many were separated from families, or collapsed from exhaustion along the way. They don’t know where their next meal will come from, or how they will provide for their children.
Three days ago, Rameela Bibi was the mother of a month-old baby boy. He died in her arms on Jun. 28, of a chest infection that he contracted when the family fled their home in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, where a full-scale military offensive against the Taliban has forced nearly half a million people to flee.
It has been just two weeks since the Pakistan army began a full-blown military offensive - codenamed ‘the sword of the Prophet Muhammad strikes’ (Zarb-e-Asb) – to eradicate the Taliban from the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), particularly from the sprawling North Waziristan Agency.
Upping the ante against U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, celebrated cricketer-turned-political leader Imran Khan has threatened to block NATO supplies to Afghanistan through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where his party leads a coalition government.
Pakistanis are no strangers to sports-related violence; in fact, many have come to expect scuffles and conflict, especially following a major cricket match. In the country’s northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), however, cricket has become a tool to promote peace.
Four-year-old Muhammad Jihad is handicapped, and his parents know who to blame: the Taliban.
The United States is laying meticulous plans ahead of its 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, but it has clearly overlooked how its continued drones strikes on the tribal areas of neighbouring Pakistan will affect the much-anticipated pullout.
Akbar Shah was sitting with his sick wife in the gynaecology ward of the Agency Headquarters Hospital in Bajaur Agency, a division of northern Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), when a bomb ripped through the facility, scattering patients, doctors and medical supplies.
While the Taliban’s military activities continue to plague Pakistan’s northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the incessant violence has been a blessing in disguise for one creature: the falcon.