ANALYSIS: Ordeal of Hayatullah Orakzai —Farhat Taj - Saturday, October 02, 2010

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Hayatullah’s ordeal began when his brother applied for a job in the Frontier Corps (FC). His brother, Mohammad Hafiz, along with a friend, was on his way for recruitment in the FC when they were kidnapped by the Taliban

Hayatuallah Orakzai, 21, is an internally displaced person (IDP) from Upper Orakzai. His family peacefully lived in Giljo, Orakzai, until 2008 when the Taliban came to his village and overpowered the people. In the complete absence of any state protection, his family, like most of his co-villagers, continued to live as quietly as possible without questioning the Taliban order.

His family’s ordeal began when his brother applied for a job in the Frontier Corps (FC). His brother, Mohammad Hafiz, along with a friend, was on his way for recruitment in the FC when they were kidnapped by the Taliban, who had already announced that any tribesmen joining the FC would be killed. The Taliban ordered Hayatullah — via phone — to come to a centre that they had established in a nearby mosque. They demanded Rs 300,000 ransom for the release of his brother. He requested them to give him at least three days to arrange for the amount. They replied that they could not even give him a few hours. They threatened that if they did not get the money within two hours, they would kill his brother. Hayatullah begged them to give him at least 24 hours. They were not willing, but finally one of them agreed and asked the others to give him an opportunity to arrange the money by the next afternoon. Hayatullah went home and began contacting relatives and friends to borrow the money. Early next morning, he received the message that his brother and his friend had been killed and their dead bodies had been dumped in a nearby village.

Nobody dared touch the dead bodies out of fear because the Taliban had left a threatening note. Putting their lives in danger, some of Hayatullah’s relatives brought the dead bodies to their village. The boys had been shot many times in the head; their heads had been blown open. Out of sheer fear of the Taliban, none of the mullahs were ready to offer funeral prayers for the boys. Finally, Hayatullah’s cousin, who is not a maulvi, offered the prayers. The boys were killed because they were recruiting for the FC. No state compensation, even condolence, was ever offered to Hayatullah’s family.

The ordeal of Hayatullah’s family multiplied when the Pakistan Army, stationed in the famous Zargari Fort, called the elders of Hayatullah’s village for a meeting. The elders were told that as there was no health centre, whenever there would be an emergency during the night or a curfew, they must call on the phone numbers provided to them and inform the officers about the details of the town’s people and vehicles so that they could be allowed to pass on the roads smoothly, and so that the army would not shoot innocent people by mistaking them as terrorists. The army officers and the elders discussed the general security situation in the area before the meeting was dismissed. Hayatullah’s father was among the elders.

Soon after the meeting, the Taliban ordered the elders who had attended the meeting to come to their centre for an investigation. Some of the elders ran away from the village. Others thought they would talk it out with the Taliban. The next day the Taliban came to arrest the elders who had attended the meeting. Those who resisted were killed on the spot. Hayatullah’s father, Akhtar Jan, was arrested. The next morning, his father’s beheaded corpse, along with the dead bodies of the other arrested people, was found in a ditch.

Relatives and friends advised Hayatullah to leave the village because his turn could be next. Hayatullah ran away from the village along with his mother and three young siblings. They now live as IDPs in pathetic conditions in Kohat. They have no source of livelihood. No state help or condolence has even been offered to his family after the brutal assassinations of a brother and father. Hayatullah is jobless and asked me to publish his family’s ordeal and request the authorities on his behalf for some state support for his family, as they had lost both its breadwinners due to their association with the security forces of Pakistan.

Hayatullah’s father was a chowkidar in a school. This position became vacant due to his assassination. Hayatullah requested the FATA education authorities to appoint him in that position because it would fetch his family an immediate source of income. Currently, the family has no source of income.

As per the wishes of Hayatullah, I share his family’s ordeal with the people of Pakistan and am now circulating an appeal for help. I am, however, not sure who is the state authority that can provide some help to his family. Is it the political agent of Orakzai? He cannot even breathe without permission from the ISI. Is it the president of Pakistan? He cannot even implement his own orders regarding political reforms in FATA, which he announced in August 2009, due to the ISI’s opposition. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has no jurisdiction over FATA, and the same goes for the government of Yousaf Raza Gilani. So an appeal to the chief justice or the prime minister means nothing. An appeal to the DG of the ISI would be appropriate because his institution exercises absolute control over FATA. But would the DG pay any attention to the plight of people like Hayatullah? It is the ISI that is running the deadly show in collusion with the Taliban through the blood of the innocent people of FATA.

Hayatullah informs me that there were only 25 people in his entire village who were linked with the Taliban. How can it be that 25 men overpowered an entire village? The 25 men had lethal weapons that most people in the village had never ever seen before in their lifetime. These 25 men had been strengthened by scores of non-local Pakhtuns, Punjabis and Uzbeks; the villagers were overpowered by them. The Pakistan Army, stationed in the Zargari Fort, could do nothing to stop the slaughter of innocent villagers like the father and brother of Hayatullah.

I request the philanthropists in Pakistan to come forward and provide some help to Hayatuallah’s family.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

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