File Photo: Orakzai Agency

Zubair Afridi.

The scenic area of District orakzai is located about 140 km from the provincial capital Peshawar. it is bounded by Kohat and Hangu in the south, Khyber in the north, Kurram in the west, and Peshawar in the east.

This region has a long history of insurgency and military operations. Militants in this region for the first time, was observed in the late 90s when a local clerk naming Muhammad Rahim founded an organization, Tehreek-e- Tulaba Movement(TTM) to enforce islamic sharia law in orakzai agency. They banned watching TV, VCR and listening to tape recorders. For the first time TTM sharia court ordered the execution of a young man accused of killing a man.

When America and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 Muhammad Rahim started supporting war against the Americans and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and shifted to Afghanistan. The TTM since then disappeared from the scene in Orakzai Agency.

But after few years, Talibanization reappeared in the region in 2006. Initially, Orakzai area was less affected by ongoing militancy. But, slowly, people had welcomed Talibans as they were unaware about their intentions. When the Taliban acquired strength and started assertion of force in the region then people found themselves helpless. Gradually, orakzai became a safe heaven for various militant Taliban groups like mahdi militia (shia group), Molvi Muhammad saeed group, aslam farooqi group, Tariq afridi group, lashkari janghvi group, Gull Zaman group, ghazi force and few other groups. Most of them were affiliated to TTP of Baitullah Mahsud.

In December 2009, Pakistan Army launched a full scale military operations “KHWAKH BA DY SHUM”(I will teach you a lesson) against TTP militants. Thousands of local civilians were shifted to IDPs camps in Hangu and kohat districts. The operation was concluded in June 2010. The pakistan army claimed that it had cleared the area but ironically clashes  continued between TPP and Pakistan Army even after the end of the operation. That was an indication that various militant groups were active in the region.

Locals of district Orakzai displaced by military operation and terrorism when returned back in 2018 to their home town, damaged homes and infrastructure welcomed them. Remnants of the war were still visible as row upon rows of homes in this mountainous region lay in ruins. Schools have been destroyed by terrorists, Access to health and other social services was already poor in Orakzai district due to various factors, including damaged health facilities. Because of the war, 80-90% of the physical infrastructure (health and education facilities) were destroyed and is yet to be rehabilitated. After being merged in 2018, the district is still home to all sort of challenges one can imagine.

After the string of military operations and militancy in the region, it was expected that government will pay its full attention to the region in a bid to avoid Taliban resurgence but unfortunately all the calls and demands for the the development of the the region fall on deaf ears. Interestingly, non local Journalists have been barred from visiting or reporting from the Orakzai tribal area since November 2017. One the other hand orakzai district will lose its representation in the National Assembly after the Election Commission halves former FATA seats from 12 to six. An area having more than 700,000 population will be given a constituency to vote for National Assembly, otherwise “Failure to reach the required count will lead to the merger of one constituency with the other.” said ECP provincial spokesperson Sohail Ahmed. Besides it , the unavailability of Internet policy has also turned the region into digital information black hole.

District orakzai could be again home for militants as they are back in Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Reportedly, TTP has taken control of areas in Matta tehsil of Swat. TTP has also increased their activities in district orakzai. The group carried out various attacks since last year, claiming many lives. Those killed were mostly members of Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies. This region needs government attention before militant took control of the whole district, and once again force the locals to leave their home.