Jamrud – a town in the Khyber district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and a gateway to Khyber Pass – is home to hundreds of caves where several hundred families live in dire conditions.
Similar caves are located in many mountainous areas of Tirah and Rajgal valleys of KP, sheltering more than 12,000 homeless families overall, living under severe poverty.
But they weren’t born poor. They had homes, livelihoods, and a reason to live.
Then, the valley became a militant’s harbor, followed by an extreme military operation to flush out the anti-state elements.
The destruction caused during these operations that continued for several years left several thousand households without shelters.
For one reason or another, these families were never recognized as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and were consequently left out of government aid programs.
Family Life in Caves
A YouTube video captured the life of a Koki Khel family living in the caves. Shehzad and his family have been living there for the last decade. They have developed a rudimentary residence for themselves within a cave of Warmando Mela. The ten-member family survives on a daily wage of Rs. 500, which Shehzad earns through labor work.
He and his wife moved there a year into their marriage due to the deteriorating security situation. All his eight children were born in the same cave.
My wife gave birth to our children within the very cave. That too, without any access to basic health facilities.
Shehzad explains that this has become a norm among families there. All women deliver their children within the caves and only visit the nearby hospital if they develop any complications during pregnancies.
Shehzad’s family and thousands of others like him in the caves of Warmando Maila, Toda Maila, Ali Masjid, Ghalo Mela, Chappar, Sur Kamar, and Koper Tangi in Jamrud are yet to receive the government’s aide. However, it seems that their sufferings will not end soon, as Rajgal is yet to be declared safe.
Video courtesy: Voicepk