Voters in Pakistan’s general election outrightly rejected political parties with extremism records and candidates linked to banned terrorist groups, opting instead to back liberal forces in a support for peace.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas located on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border remain one of the most perilous places in the world to be a reporter, with journalists walking a razor’s edge of violence and censorship.
Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is widely viewed as one of the world's most dangerous places to be a journalist, with at least 14 killed since 2005 and a dozen of those cases still unsolved, according to local and international groups.
Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two remaining polio-endemic countries, have joined forces to eradicate poliomyelitis by vaccinating their children in synchronised campaigns.
“We are extremely jubilant over the rebuilding of our school that the Taliban destroyed it in 2013, due to which we used to sit without a roof,” Mujahida Bibi, a student of 8th grade in Government Girls Middle School North Waziristan Agency, told IPS.
A military operation by Pakistan’s army has been proving fatal for Taliban militants who held sway over vast swathes of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) for over a decade. They crossed over the border from Afghanistan and took refuge in Fata after their government was toppled by US-led forces towards the end of 2001. After a few years, when they got a toe-hold in the region, they extended their wings to all seven districts of Fata. Not any more.
“We aren’t happy here but cannot go back to our country because the situation there was extremely bad,” Ghareeb Gul, Afghan refugees told IPS.
“My two sons were killed by Taliban militants mercilessly three years ago. My husband died a natural death two year back. Now, I am begging to raise my two grandsons,” Gul Pari, 50, told IPS.
“We have to purchase water from the municipalities for our daily use. The water column has gone too deep and it is hard to pump out the commodity,” said Muhammad Shakir, a resident of Hayatabad, an upscale town in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Jauhar Shah lost everything. His house came tumbling down while his family was sleeping. He survived but his wife and daughter did not. The October 26 tremor measuring 8.1 Richter scale changed his life forever.
“My grandmother rushed inside the room to save me. Roof suddenly collapsed and she died,” said 12-year-old Mushtari Bibi.
“We are lucky a local dam will give us cheap and uninterrupted power supply. Currently, we remain without electricity for 14-16 hours every day,” Muhammad Shafique, a schoolteacher in Upper Dir, told IPS.
“We are extremely happy over the government’s initiative to give money to the pregnant women and enable them to seek proper treatment,” said Sharif Ahmed at a basic health unit (BHU), near Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
It has been seven months since a group of gunmen raided the Army Public School in Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, killing 145 people, including 132 students.
For years, Robina Shah has dreamed of joining the police force.
Ever since her father, a police constable, was killed in a 2013 Taliban suicide attack in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, she has longed to carry on his legacy.
A doctor shakes his head in despair as he examines a 10-year-old child at the Jalozai refugee camp, about 35 km by road from Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
It is no surprise that most Pakistani journalists work under tremendous stress; caught between crime lords in its biggest cities, militant groups across its tribal belt and rival political parties throughout the country, censorship, intimidation and death seem almost to come with the territory.
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.
Pakistan’s announcement that it has lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in response to the Dec. 16 attack on the Army Public School and College in Peshawar continues to draw severe criticism from human rights groups, which say that this contravenes international treaties signed by Pakistan.
“Our children quitting school is the greatest pain we have suffered during our troublesome lives here,” says Multan Shah, a vegetable-seller in a shantytown of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of Pakistan's four provinces.