Recently, a 13-year-old school boy in Pakistan's northwestern province set himself on fire because he wanted a school uniform. Poverty and terrorism in Pakistan's northwest are forcing people to take extreme measures.
After Pakistan decided to join the US-led 'war on terror' in 2001, the area which was worst hit by violence was Pakistan's northwest, a hub of the Pakistani Taliban. The decade-long battle between Taliban insurgents and Pakistani security forces has devastated the economy of Pakistan's northwest; hundreds of industries have been shut down, and laborers have migrated to other parts of the country in search of employment.
The rise in poverty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also forcing more and more people to commit suicide.
Recently, Kamran Khan, a 13-year-old schoolboy from the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killed himself because he wanted a new school uniform. Khan was a fourth-grade student with a brilliant academic record. His parents had migrated from the recalcitrant Mohmand Agency, one of the seven districts of the semi-governed FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) that border Afghanistan.
"Kamran asked our mother to buy her a new school uniform," Khan's brother Saleem Khan told DW. "We could not afford to buy a new uniform. In extreme frustration, Kamran set himself on fire. We took him to the hospital but 65 percent of his body had been burnt. We could not save him," Khan's brother explained.
Khan's brother said that recently, after his sister was born, his parents had to give her away to a well-to-do family, so that she could live a normal life without poverty. He said his father had moved to Saudi Arabia in search of a job, but ended up returning to Pakistan empty handed.
Internal migration on the rise
Pakistani security forces have been fighting Taliban militants in the Mohmand Agency for five years. The military operation has destroyed the livelihood of its inhabitants; many of them have had to migrate to other areas. At least five hundred families from Mohmand are living in refugee camps set up by the UNHCR. In other FATA areas, too, people are being forced to leave their homes because of terrorism and violence. Internally displaced people (IDPs) living in these camps complain that the Pakistani government is not doing much for them.
The government says it has started several projects to provide employment to the people of the tribal areas. However, many Pakistani experts believe that the economic condition cannot be improved without peace in the whole of the northwest.
Author: Faridullah Khan / ss
Editor: Sarah Berning