D I Khan continues to suffer from violence
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
PESHAWAR: At a time when several places in the NWFP are suffering from violence, due attention isn’t given by the government and the media to all the trouble spots. Dera Ismail Khan is one such place. Bomb explosions, targeted killings and other violent acts have made the city and parts of the district insecure and created uncertainty among the people.
As pointed out in a communication to this scribe by Dr M Waqar Ali Asad, an associate professor at the NWFP University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar presently conducting postdoctoral research at the Colorado School of Mines in the United States, much of the government and media attention was focused on the tribal areas such as Waziristan, Bajaur, Kurram Agency and Darra Adamkhel and districts like Swat.
“I belong to D I Khan and am very much concerned about the ongoing sectarian violence in the city. The situation in D I Khan has been alarming since August 2006. Among others, the city has lost professors, doctors, engineers and prominent businessmen because of the day-to-day targeted killings,” he wrote recently.
Living far away from home, Dr Waqar has reasons to be concerned. His hometown has never witnessed violence at this scale and at such frequency. The news from Dera, the way we often refer to Dera Ismail Khan, has often been disturbing. There was a devastating suicide bombing that targeted a police recruitment centre and killed jobless young men seeking employment. Blasts caused by roadside bombs or those planted in bicycles and then exploded with remote-control devices brought frightening new methods of killings to Dera.
Targeted killings followed and now many notables and intellectuals are wondering if they too are listed among the marked men. Dera wasn’t such a violent place. There were certainly occasional sectarian riots that pitted sections of the Sunnis and Shias against each other and gave an opportunity to outsiders to meddle in Dera’s affairs.
The issue of the Ashura procession’s route in the city remained a bone of contention for some years and contributed to the widening of the sectarian divide. However, the problem was manageable and some of the better government functionaries and peacemakers used to wisely handle the situation and restore order after every round of sectarian clashes.
The rise of militancy in South Waziristan had fallout in neighbouring Tank and D I Khan, which were once a single district. Dera’s demography also changed when tribal families from Waziristan started buying property in the city and farmland outside Dera.
The incapacity of the law-enforcement agencies to cope with the situation has also been a factor in the breakdown of the law and order. Out of love for their city, Derawals referred to D I Khan as “Dera Phulaan Da Sehra.” For them Dera was like a garland of flowers. They still call it by this name but one feels the enthusiasm attached with it is missing.
The bloodshed in Dera has certainly made it a sad place but the Derawals remain full of life and appear determined not to give in to those who want to turn their city into an unstable place.
Like Dr Waqar Asad, many other Derawals believe the new Awami National Party-Pakistan People’s Party coalition government isn’t overly concerned about the situation in D I Khan. They feel Dera’s location in the far south of the province is one reason it doesn’t get enough government and media attention.
The provincial government claims it has taken steps to calm down the situation in D I Khan and control the sectarian killings. The federal government too belatedly took notice of the attention.
However, the public would recognise and appreciate the efforts of the federal and provincial governments if it made Dera a peaceful place again. Until then, they would continue to hold the government responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in and around Dera.