Imagine traveling for almost an entire day in the blistering sun, carrying all your possessions with you. Imagine fleeing in the middle of the night as airstrikes reduce your village to rubble. Imagine arriving in a makeshift refugee camp where there is no running water, no bathrooms and hardly any food. Now imagine making that journey as a pregnant woman.
Millions of words have been written about the rise, conquests, and savagery of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Both have declared an “Islamic State” in their areas although Boko Haram has not claimed the mantle of a successor to the Prophet Muhammad as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has done in Greater Syria. The two groups are the latest in a string of terrorist organisations in the past two decades.
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.
A knife fight late Tuesday among several auditors at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) still inspecting the results of the presidential elections held in mid-June could be the stab in the back for what has been a painful election process.
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.
Shaukat Ali, a shopkeeper originally hailing from Miramshah in the Northern Waziristan Agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), looks exhausted as he sits outside a makeshift shelter with his family of 10.
Already saddled with a veritable catalogue of crises, Pakistan’s largest province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) now finds itself on the verge of industrial collapse, as extortion and kidnappings drive away all prospects for production or employment.
About a third of the voters in the Afghanistan presidential election were women. That still gives Afghan women a say in running the country, as never before.
The Afghanistan presidential election is turning out to be a tale of two narratives. The more positive and democratic one could be winning the day.
Mushfiq Wali, a 22-year-old shoemaker in northern Pakistan, loves watching films in the local Pashto language. But he says the Taliban are a killjoy: their bomb attacks have led to the closure of movie theatres, again. “They don’t spare anything that brings happiness.”
Following scattered defiance of the Taliban earlier, a new wave of students is now heading for education in schools and colleges across the troubled north of Pakistan.
Pakistan is in the midst of a heated debate on continuing military operations against the Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially after the brutal killing of 23 army soldiers last month.
There was a time when images from war zones featured only battlefields and barracks. As warfare moved into the 20th
century, pictures of embattled urban centres and rural guerilla outposts began to make the rounds.
Disturbed by civilian casualties and moved by the plight of people living like refugees in their own country, students from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are demanding an end to army operations against militants on their native soil.
Whether to make war or peace with the Taliban has become a dilemma for the Pakistani government.
For many years they could not sing, dance or play their favourite instruments. The performing artists of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northern Pakistan lost their voice as the Taliban carried out terror attacks and banned music, calling it un-Islamic. But after tentative advances in recent months, the Pakistani province is alive with the sound of music once again.
The Taliban are proving to be a huge stumbling block for Pakistan as the South Asian nation - one of only three remaining polio endemic countries in the world – tries to fight the crippling disease.
Ahmed Nawaz, a 55-year-old farmer in northwestern Pakistan’s Swat valley, rues the day the Taliban arrived in his beautiful land, known for its rolling mountains, lush fields and blossoming orchards. “The earth became barren,” he says.
Farhat Bibi, 43, was left to fend for her three young sons after her husband was killed in a bomb attack in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) three years ago. A few days later, she landed at a camp for people displaced by violence. “The camp proved to be a blessing in disguise,” she says.