DERA ISMAIL KHAN - Unlike fellow Muslims around the globe, residents of Pakistan's tribal belt are celebrating a somber `Eid away from their homes after being forced to leave the area over army operations against Taliban militants.
"Nothing is more painful than that you are celebrating an occasion full of happiness and festivity away from your home," Irfan Mehsud, a resident of Laddah, a restive town of South Waziristan, told OnIslam.net.
"It's third consecutive year, when we are celebrating `Eid in refuge."
The father of three is among hundreds of thousands of Waziris, who have been forced to leave their homes over ongoing military operations against Taliban militants.
"Although we live with our relatives here, and they do not let us feel to be in refuge, we still feel awkward to be burden on them," Irfan, an educationalist, said.
"They are not rich people but they still have a big heart," he said, referring to traditional hospitality, which is an important part of Pashtunwali (Pashtun traditions).
Nearly 300,000 people have been displaced from their areas in South Waziristan over ongoing military operations against militants of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a conglomerate of various pro-Taliban militant groups.
Though the government has setup refugee camps in the adjoining districts of South Waziristan, a very few refugees have opted for staying at these camps.
A majority of displaced Waziris have preferred to stay with their relatives across the country, whereas affluent people rented houses in different areas.
"We have been relying on assurances of the government that we will soon return to our homes," an apparently unhappy Irfan said.
"But none of a single assurance has so far been translated into action.
"Only 8000 to 10,000 people out of over 300,000 have so far managed to return," he said.
After three years of military operations, security forces have so far declared only one subdivision, Sararogha, cleared of militants.
Other towns of South Waziristan as Makeen, Tiarza, Laddah, Shawal and Sarwakai are yet to be cleared off militants.
"It looks like a dream now when I along with my children attired in new clothes, would go to offer Eid prayers at Eid Gah," Zafarullah Mehsud told OnIslam.net, referring to a central place where `Eid prayers are offered.
"We are being assured for last three years that next year we would celebrate `Eid at our homes," said Zafarullah, who is now working as a security guard at a private firm.
"But only Allah knows when would that `Eid come."
`Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, started in Pakistan on Monday, August 20.
The three-year displacement has rendered a large number of displaced persons into serious financial crunch.
"I was the one who bought various poor people clothes and shoes on every `Eid," Zafarullah, who is getting Rs 8000 (85 dollars) per month, recalled.
"But now I am not in a position to even buy these things for my own children.
"I owned lands and a farm in my area. There has been no compensation against this huge loss. I left my home because of military operation," an angry Zafarullah said.
"I must have been compensated by the government."
Irfan Barki, a local journalist who has also been displaced to Tank, an adjoining district of South Waziristan, says a majority of displaced Waziris are facing acute financial constraints.
"Almost 95 percent of displaced persons did not prefer to stay in refugee camps because of their egoistic nature, making it difficult for the government agencies to keep their record and know about their problems," he told OnIslam.net.
"But if there is a will, there is way," Irfan said.
"If the government appeared to be serious and sincere, it would have taken the help of tribal elders to locate the displaced persons, who have not been living in the air. They are very much here," he said, referring to an adjacent district of South Waziristan.
"I don't think that a majority of people (displaced from S. Waziristan) would be able to even buy new clothes and shoes to their children on this `Eid as their savings are almost depleted."
Despite their distress, displaced Waziris still keep hope for a better future.
"I won't lie. I right now do not see any light at the end of the tunnel, but being a Muslim I can turn out to hopeless," Irfan, the educationalist, said.
"I have strong faith that when good days are numbered then these bad days will also come to an end," a humble Irfan, who is teaching at a private school in Dera Ismail Khan, said.
"I will keep waiting for good days."
Irfan Barki, the local journalist, agrees.
"Despite all difficulties and an environment of discouragement, Inshaullah we will celebrate `Eid with renewed vigor and resolve no matter a majority of us won't have new clothes. So what?
"`Eid is not the name of new clothes and shoes. But it is the reward from Allah, and we all should be thankful for this reward," he said."Inshaullah things will get settled soon," a confident Irfan said.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net