Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sitting on a time bomb

A group of civil society members, including myself, visited some areas around Mingora recently, and what we saw was horrifying. This part of Swat was not badly affected, yet in some areas the houses were heaps of rubble, and men were guarding what was once their home, due to the fear of the land-grabbing mafia. I remember how the IDPs would yearn for their homes. Now, for many of them those homes are gone. The Swatis have gone through hell in the last three years. They are depressed, angry and helpless. All they want is a roof over their heads. At one location we were almost trampled by a crowd of women and their desperation was heartrending. A 10-year-old boy crouched in the rubble of his house, hammering at some bricks. He said he was removing the cement from them to build their house again. An old man said that when the water came he ran to save his life, but even then he did not forget to grab a quilt which his students had made for him years ago. A young couple fled their home with their 8-month-old babyboy who was sick, but since the roads were blocked they couldn't get to a hospital and the baby died of pneumonia. A woman with three small children lost her husband. The husband had managed to get his family out but was swept away himself. An old woman lost everything and now lives in a tiny tent where her home once was. The stories are endless. Most of the homeless families are living with their relatives -- but for how long? There is no work, no income, and soon the winter will arrive with its own set of problems. Millions are suffering from psychological trauma, and unless they are given shelter soon, there will be total anarchy.
Undoubtedly we have contributed to this calamity in countless ways. The timber mafia is directly responsible for the devastation in the mountainous regions, but are we going to do anything about this menace? Probably not, because they are mostly the ones in the corridors of power. We need to adopt a united strategy, since no single body can do this alone. I do not want to sound patronising, but I felt it was my moral duty to share my fears with you. The scenes that I witnessed will haunt me for a long time and I pray that this calamity does not prove to be the last straw as far as the survival of our beautiful country is concerned.
Ghazala Minallah

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