Even after one year, Mehwish remains an IDP

Published: June 4, 2015

The Internally Displaced Persons in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Mehwish is a nine-year-old girl who lives in Haider Khel, a small village in Tehsil Mir Ali, North Waziristan. She has a younger brother named Akash and a widowed mother and grandmother. She is currently living as an internally displaced person (IDP) in Muhammad Khel, Bannu, where she shares a half-kenal house with five other families; approximately, 30 individuals presently reside in the same house.

Mehwish was only three-years-old when her father, Shakeel, was targeted and killed by an unknown airstrike in 2007. After her father’s demise, Mehwish has been very pro-active with her studies. She, like countless other Malalas, strived for education and began her early schooling at a primary school in her village. But soon, she, amongst many others, was dislocated from her home and her village in the name of peace, security and safety of the country.

While many IDPs around her are happy that they will now be saved from the militancy that has plagued her lands, for Mehwish, this marked the end of her dream. According to her,

“I have no father to admit me in a school and my mother cannot (fulfil this task)”.

Shakeel was a known militant commander who had links to Abu Kasha al Iraqi, who was an al Qaeda-linked militant and was killed in a US drone attack in Mir Ali in September 2012. The security officials and intelligence agencies stated that Shakeel and his allies had beheaded more than 50 security personnel. But the local officials could not confirm whether his death was due to airstrikes carried out by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) since there were no domestic drone attacks being carried out in 2007. Thus, all fingers pointed towards US drone attacks.

Mehwish doesn’t know why her father was killed, moreover, what he had done to deserve such ruthlessness. She’s only aware of the fact that she has no one to call ‘papa’ anymore since her grandfather had also passed away due to an illness a month before her father’s death. Thus, she carries a feeling of loneliness within due to the absence of her father. And no longer knows what to do with her life.

She could have been another Malala, but she remains one of the millions of faceless girls who have nothing to do, nowhere to go now.

The Saimin family, and many other displaced families, are living in extremely vulnerable and harsh conditions in Bannu, who are still not officially registered as IDPs with the Disaster Management Authorities (DMA). Till date, they haven’t received any help from the provincial or the federal government, while their lives pass by.

Many Malalas like Mehwish have lost their fathers and other family members to the brutality of terrorism. Even though, killing Mehwish’s father – who had been accused of spreading terrorism – may be justified, but what is not fair is the fact that Mehwish and her family have been left to fend for themselves. With absolutely no support. Why does she have to suffer the punishment of the crime her father committed?

This month, it will be an entire year since the IDPs have been out of their homes. Even after one year, why haven’t they been able to return to their homeland? Has Zarb-e-Azb not been successful enough? How much longer will Mehwish, her family and thousands of families like hers stay shelter-less, unprotected, and uncared for?

Adnan Bitani

Adnan Bitani

A freelance journalist , investigative reporter and stringer at VOA Deewa Radio/Tv who divides his time between Islamabad and the Tribal belt of Pakistan. He tweets @Bitani1 (twitter.com/Bitani1)

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