We had to get money on loan from some relatives during the kidney transplant of my wife. I was not like the rest of sub engineers who secure their three or more generations financially. The post-operation treatment was also out of my reach but that was taken care of by my elder son. Medicines were very costly and mostly not produced in Pakistan. But he some how managed it to the last day of his mother’s life. When I got retired, the first one who asked for his money was non other than my wife’s own brother. Any how life went on as usual. We somehow kept her treatment and check up every month.
Some years later the visits were every other month. Suddenly dark loomed on the heavenly valley of Swat. A fanatic Mullah stood up for Sharia. The reality is still shrouded with uncertainty, doubts, and controversial theories. Who planted this Mullah in Swat? Why the Government failed to curb the evil in the bud? How he got thousands of well armed men in a very short time? How they adopted the name of TTP and so many other question. In a short while, the Mullah became a symbol of terrorism, killings, burnings and blastings.
Fear was on the rampage in the valley. When ever I passed through Qambar in a passenger bus etc, we saw the terrorist standing in groups fully armed with Walki Talkies, looking hard to every person and trigger happy. And when the final action was announced after sporadic clashes, the Forces entered Swat with such a strength as never seen before. Tanks, Artillery, Helicopters, Jet fighters and what not. Even children learnt about Cobra, Chinok and other type of Heli’s. They saw shelling, bombing and 500 pounds to 1000 pounds Artillery firing on far off hills of upper Swat. And then the day came when Swatis were asked to leave their homes.
The evacuation was made in stages area-wise. First Upper Swat and Nikpikhel, then Babozai and the last were Abakhel, Musakhel and Shamozo. We were given two hours time to leave. So our whole family, some 60 people children and aged, just took our clothes and boarded two flying coaches, leaving our houses and started a journey without fix destination. We had decided that whatever the case may be, we would not live in a refugee camp. A new name for us was introduced by the authorities, IDP, Internally Displaced Persons. So we went to Hazar Khwani and stayed for three days in the house of Malak Munsif, a friend of my nephew Akhtar Ali. Then two houses were hired there and half of us shifted there. The people were very cooperative and helped in any way possible. My own family shifted to Hayat Abad Phase 6, to the spacious house of my wife’s uncle Professor Wali Muhammad. We stayed there for 16 days and then shifted to upper portion of a house in Phase 2, Sector 5, Hayat Abad, Peshawar.
We stayed there for about two months. The neighboring residents were very cordial and sent ice and fruits etc once in a while. The Pesh Imam of the Masjid Ammar bin Yaser specifically asked the people to extend any help we needed. Many Swatis were living in various sectors of Hayat Abad in rented houses. We often gathered in a green belt near Zaid Market in the evening. Our ration centre was in the Swan Building near a Park, Lala Zaar probably.
This calamity of Swat was turned into opportunity by the higher ups of ANP and PPP. The Benazir Cheques were controlled by a local PPP leader and the Rations were mainly handled by ANP. When we got our half month rations consisting of wheat, sugar, tea, pulses, American oils and Turkish biscuits. The agents of the Bilour brothers bought the wheat bags as the IDPs and had no other way but to sell the wheat at the price the dealers were paying. People were brutally beaten by the law inforcing persons in ration centres, ATM cards centres just for fun. I saw many nobility of Swat dishonored by two penny servants.
Those three months of “Hijrath” within the country were full of humiliation, destitute and hardships unexperienced before. The property dealers had a heyday.They raised the rents beyond the reach of the refugees but we had no alternative but to agree on their terms. The Political pythons also made good of the chance of their life time to get rich. The Checks issued by PPP government worth Rs.5000/- only were issued to those who could pay the commission to the party head at Peshawar. In the beginning they charged Rs.500 per cheque. Later the rate was raised from 1000 to 2000. We submitted our list to a lawyer who assured us he would ensure the issuance of the cheques. But after some days, he returned the list, with regrets for his failure. An MNA was reported to havd taken thousands of these cheques saying he was going to distrubute among the IDPs of his constituency. Influential people were able to get more cheques than the deserved. I personally saw a PPP office holder from Buner receiving a number of cheques from an official of the Secretariat who was from Buner and lived in J 5, Phase II sector. Later the official told me the Khan was after him for many days to get him the cheques.
When the issuance of the ATM cards were announced, we were informed to go to Haji Camp for collecting the Cards. There were thousands of IDPs there. The Army personals were controlling the mob to order, beating old men mercilessly. A young boy asked the sepoy to be a little soft towards the old men, he said, “Be quite or I will kill you.” Then I wrote a poem:
Ya sepoy zalima da Swatian pa lawarh ma waga
Da bekora shawi mazloman pa lawarh ma waha.
At last after nearly three months, we were allowed to return to our burnt paradise of Swat. The return journey was also very miserable and humiliating. The NCP cars and coaches were granted relaxation to move in the whole province. We hired a Hiace and left Hayat Abad on our way to home. The property dealer was using delaying tactics to refund our security of Rs .10000. My son Humayun stayed there for recovering of the money and followed us three days later. When we were just out of the city, a police party stopped us. An ASI was sitting on a chair like a great Emperor without looking up.The Driver went to him and the negociations started. When the conversation went a little longer, I got out of the van and holding my feverish grandson in my arms, requested the ASI, to have mercy on us and let us go. He growled and advised me to sit in the coach. After much tete-a tete,the matter was settled on Rs.500. Then enroute, our number of returning family was recorded at Shergarh. At Dargai Check post we handed over the list to the Soldiers and the counted us again.
When we reached Aboha and entered our house, I prostrated and then kissed the earth of my lawn, thanking Allah. Everything in the house was perfect, nothing disturbed or out of place. The main gate had two bullet holes. That three months of merciless exile had adverse effects on the health of my wife. Those nights of extreme hot weather, sleeping on mates on the floor and malnutrition had its toll on her already weak physique.