Governor’s ‘ritualistic’ visit to Bara draws flak

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor, Sardar Mehtab Abbasi.—PPI/File

LANDI KOTAL: Displaced persons of the restive Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency expressed disappointment over the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor’s failure to announce a final date for their return during his visit to the region on Monday, saying they had little faith in repeated official assurances about the much-awaited repatriation process.

Talking to Dawn after the visit, long time political activist Bazaar Gul Afridi said internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Bara by and large were not satisfied with Governor Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi’s assertion about the launching of a repatriation plan ‘after mid February”.

Also read: Repatriation of Bara IDPs to begin next month

“In the recent past, the government had been deceiving us by announcing expected dates about our return and later postponing the dates without citing any suitable reason for the delay. This is causing frustration among the already stressed out IDPs”, he bemoaned.

He was of the opinion that the governor’s visit was a mere formality as he preferred to attend only an official briefing on security situation at Fort Salop, “followed by a sumptuous lunch,” and did not bother to meet people affected by the Bara operation and ascertain their miseries.

Iqbal Afridi, the Khyber chapter president of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, was also very critical of ignoring the real stakeholders by the governor during his visit to Bara, which was the first by any high level government functionary since 2009 when a military operation was launched in the area.

IDPs long for early repatriation after peace in the area

“We have been hearing such announcements and pledges but no particle steps have been taken to alleviate the sufferings of displaced people of Bara’, he regretted and insisted that peace must be restored in the area before sending the displaced families back to their homes.

Highlighting immediate needs and requirements of the IDPs, Iqbal Afridi said that over 70 per cent of houses in the area needed major repairs. So does the severely damaged road infrastructure.

Hashim Khan, a former councillor, said he was not sure that the governor would honour his commitment about the implementation of the return plan after mid February.

Eighty per cent of the displaced families were more than willing to go back to their homes provided the government ensured peace in Bara, he said.

“People of Bara have had high expectations from the governor but they feel deceived now.”

Maqbali Khan, president of the Bara Bazaar Traders Association, termed the Rs850 million reconstruction package ‘a joke’ with the people of Bara and said that the destruction caused by nearly six years of militancy and military operation called for a grand rehabilitation plan requiring fun­ding amounting to billions of rupees. Bazaar Gul, however, said if power supply was immediately rest­ored, roads were repaired and ‘some funds’ were provided to returning families, the pledges could become a reality.

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