How dangerous are landmines in the tribal areas?

Islam Gul Afridi

Zar Bibi left her home one evening in November last year to collect firewood for fuel, but did not return on foot.

As she was chopping wood on a hill near her home, her foot landed on a landmine, causing a loud explosion. “I felt like I was being pushed by something heavy,” she said. After several hours of unconsciousness, when she opened her eyes, she was lying in the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar.

Zar Bibi, 30, hails from Bara Tehsil in Khyber District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a security checkpoint, which was demolished in 2018.

she complained that security officials had never informed the local population about the presence of landmines. “I would never have gone there if we had been informed that there might be tunnels around the checkpoint.”

The landmines remain a serious but hidden threat in all areas along the Pak-Afghan border where clashes between religious militant groups and security forces have taken place over the past two decades. Most of the victims are children and women.

Fatima, a 12-year-old daughter of Allah Noor Mehsud of Sararogha Tehsil in South Waziristan, is one of them.
She was playing near her home on July 20 last year when her foot landed on a landmine, injuring her right foot so badly that she later had to be amputated at a Peshawar hospital.


Mine victims have to travel to Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore for treatment

Fatima was a seventh-grader at the time of the blast, but has not been able to return to school since. Her father also complained that security officials did not provide any financial assistance for his daughter’s treatment.

The tunnels were erected by security agencies to restrict the movement of militants. Initially, they were buried on uninhabited mountain peaks, but over time, due to rains and snowfall, they have been reduced to steep slopes. They are often found in the hands of children during sports.

Mohammad Noman, a fifth-grade student, also brought home a landmine one evening in 2018 as a toy and began to open it with a knife, causing an explosion that resulted in him losing not only one hand but also both eyes.

Muhammad Noman’s father, a resident of Kurram District, still remembers the whole incident well. He said: ‘We were having dinner in the room when the explosion came. When we went out, there was smoke everywhere and Noman was laying injured on the ground.

At the official level, the record of these landmine blasts is not collected in a single place, but Hazrat Wali Shah, a social worker working for the rights of special people in Bajaur district, says that there are 4600 disabled people in his district along with the social welfare department. Are registered. “More than 1,600 of them are disabled in various bomb blasts or landmine explosions.”

Similarly, Hayat Parigal, a social worker from South Waziristan, says that from 2008 to 2015, there were more than 150 landmines in the Mehsud tribal area in his district. According to him, 11 people including three security personnel have been killed in these incidents while about 200 others have been injured out of which 15 have lost their eyes.

Some official figures confirm his observations.

Landmines have been cleared in the tribal areas for years, but locals have been calling for them to be cleared as soon as possible after the Pakhtun Protection Movement was formed.

According to the Directorate of Social Welfare, which operates in all the districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that were tribal agencies before the province was amalgamated in 2018, the number of persons with disabilities in the world and in other parts of Pakistan is ten per cent, but these districts Fifteen percent of that number is due to bombings, landmines and polio.

Despite this, significant facilities are not available in the tribal districts for the treatment of landmine victims, so they often have to turn to Peshawar, Islamabad or Lahore.

For example, when Samina Bibi, a 30-year-old resident of Bajaur District, lost a foot in a landmine explosion, she had to travel to Peshawar for everything from treatment to the search for an artificial foot, although she often traveled. I had to borrow,she arched

Although the demining work has been going on for many years, since the formation of the Pakhtun Protection Movement in February 2018, locals have been loudly demanding that it be cleared as soon as possible. Mir Kalam Wazir, a member from North Waziristan to Provincial Assembly and a member of the Pashtun Tehfeez Movement, told that “the presence of landmines in the tribal districts poses a threat not only to humans but also to animals, so cleaning them is very important.”

He also submitted a notice to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on June 10 this year asking the government to take necessary steps to clear landmines in the tribal districts and to treat and rehabilitate their victims. However, he said that despite the passage of more than two months, the notice was not included in the agenda of the assembly.

Islam Gul Afridi hails from Bara Tehsil in Khyber District. He has been reporting for various national and international organizations since 2005. Research on local issues is of particular interest to him.