Busi­ness as usual

Enterprise - - Contents -

De­spite some re­cent ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal ar­eas, there are hopes as things are get­ting bet­ter when com­pared to the last so many years. One ex­am­ple is the re­turn of a large num­ber of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons to Waziris­tan, Khy­ber and other tribal agen­cies. The open­ing of the Bara Bazaar af­ter seven years is one sig­nif­i­cant step to boost the morale of the tribes­men of Khy­ber Agency and to give them hope that life will re­turn to nor­mal very soon.

The Bara Bazaar, once known all over Pak­istan for im­ported and smug­gled lux­u­ri­ous goods, was shut in 2009 af­ter the law and or­der sit­u­a­tion in Khy­ber Agency de­te­ri­o­rated and the en­tire pop­u­la­tion had to mi­grate to Pe­shawar and other set­tled ar­eas. The mar­ket was no more the main cen­tre for im­ported or smug­gled goods even in 2009 as these shops were al­ready shifted to the Karkhano Mar­ket in Pe­shawar, close to the bound­ary with Jam­rud sub­di­vi­sion of Khy­ber Agency. There are thou­sands of shops in Karkhano Mar­ket sell­ing goods right from elec­tron­ics and cos­met­ics to clothes, food items, sta­tion­ary, auto parts and a num­ber of daily use items.

Bara Bazaar had around 11,000 shops. How­ever, the shops are empty and have been dam­aged by the bomb­ing and rock­et­ing. There are no cus­tomers and shop­keep­ers are still not com­fort­able to re­sume their busi­ness due to un­cer­tainty and in­se­cu­rity. Though proper se­cu­rity has been ar­ranged for the bazaar by erect­ing barbed wire all around the mar­ket, set­ting up check posts and in­creas­ing pa­trolling, shop­keep­ers and cus­tomers are yet to be con­vinced that things are com­ing back to nor­mal like be­fore.

“It will take some time for busi­ness to re­turn to nor­mal in this his­toric trade cen­tre. Not only cus­tomers but shop­keep­ers too need se­cu­rity and in­cen­tives to help re­sume busi­ness in Bara Bazaar,” opines Mu­nir Khan Afridi, a jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing the is­sues re­lated to Khy­ber Agency.

Ac­cord­ing to Afridi, the mar­kets are dam­aged and need ei­ther re­pair or re­con­struc­tion to re­sume busi­ness. “Some of the shops are just ru­ins. It will take time for all the traders to set up proper busi­nesses there. Peo­ple, how­ever, are hope­ful and happy over the new de­vel­op­ments,” says Afridi.

Shop­keep­ers have started re­con­struc­tion of the dam­aged walls and roofs. Oth­ers have started paint­ing their shops.

To en­cour­age traders, po­lit­i­cal agent Khy­ber Agency Sha­hab Ali Shah (who was trans­ferred on Fe­bru­ary 9) had to an­nounce a re­ward of Rs10,000 for the first driver to park his ve­hi­cle in the lo­cal stand. Ac­cord­ing to the head of the po­lit­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion, ev­ery fa­cil­ity has been pro­vided to the traders in­clud­ing ad­e­quate se­cu­rity ar­range­ments for the mar­ket. The mar­kets are to re­main open from 8am to 5pm. As part of re­sum­ing life in the Bara Mar­ket, the po­lit­i­cal agent in­au­gu­rated a bus ter­mi­nal, a mu­nic­i­pal com­mit­tee of­fice, res­cue ser­vice and the Bara Press Club.

The open­ing was an­nounced by the KP gov­er­nor, Sar­dar Me­htab Ah­mad Khan, who is the ad­min­is­tra­tor of all the tribal ar­eas and rep­re­sents the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Sar­dar Me­htab also an­nounced the re­turn of all the in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons to their homes very soon as most of the tribal ar­eas have been cleared by the army in mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, es­pe­cially Zarb-e-Azb and Khy­ber-1.

For the Bara Bazaar, six check posts have been set up at var­i­ous points to keep an eye on those en­ter­ing the mar­ket. A proper con­trol room has been set up as well af­ter in­stalling closed cir­cuit tele­vi­sion cam­eras at var­i­ous points of the mar­ket. Fresh con­tin­gents of khasadars have been re­cruited re­cently that in­cluded six women. This is prob­a­bly the first time that any fe­male was re­cruited into the

khasadar force.

“The se­cu­rity per­son­nel on these check posts need to be le­nient to those en­ter­ing the bazaar to en­cour­age them for fu­ture vis­its. Also, the traders whose shops and busi­nesses were de­stroyed need to be com­pen­sated by the gov­ern­ment,” said Yar As­ghar Afridi, Pres­i­dent of the Traders As­so­ci­a­tion of Bara.

Of­fi­cials say traders have al­ready started shift­ing their busi­ness to the Bara Bazaar af­ter its re­open­ing. “The Bara Bazaar was closed in 2009 af­ter the se­cu­rity forces launched an op­er­a­tion against the mil­i­tants in the area. Peo­ple have al­ready started shift­ing their busi­ness to the trade cen­tre. The busi­ness­men have been pro­vided spe­cial cards while the cus­tomers have to pro­duce their com­put­er­ized na­tional iden­tity cards on en­ter­ing the trade cen­tre,” said Mo­ham­mad Arif, As­sis­tant Po­lit­i­cal Agent of Bara sub­di­vi­sion of Khy­ber Agency. The of­fi­cial made it clear that there will be a com­plete ban on the sale of arms, al­co­hol, hashish and other con­tra­bands.

The au­thor­i­ties, how­ever, have al­ready failed in the ad­ja­cent Jam­rud sub­di­vi­sion where all these con­tra­bands are openly avail­able. Peo­ple from Pe­shawar have to cross the po­lice check post near Karkhano Mar­ket to en­ter Jam­rud to get any of these banned stuff.

Tribes­men are still un­cer­tain about the dura­bil­ity of peace in the tribal ar­eas. They fear that things can take an ugly turn any­time like that in the last few weeks. The year 2015 proved to be more peace­ful year for Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa if com­pared with the last many years. How­ever, things de­te­ri­o­rated sud­denly when a sui­cide bomber first hit the Nadra of­fice in Mar­dan in the last week of De­cem­ber, an­other blew him­self up in Jam­rud, close to Karkhano Mar­ket and some ter­ror­ists stormed into the Bacha Khan Univer­sity on Jan­uary 20. The mood of the pub­lic is to­tally changed af­ter these de­vel­op­ments.

The se­cu­rity of schools and other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions is beefed up and even a lit­tle tyre burst sends the alarm bells ring­ing. “The peo­ple of the Khy­ber Agency, es­pe­cially Bara sub­di­vi­sion, are still un­cer­tain about the com­ing months and years. The gov­ern­ment and the po­lit­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion have to take ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures to re­store the con­fi­dence of the gen­eral pub­lic af­ter their re­turn to home­towns,” said Alam­gir Afridi, a res­i­dent of Bara. He says a num­ber of his fam­ily mem­bers have re­fused to go back to Bara and are still liv­ing in their rented house in Pe­shawar due to un­cer­tainty in Khy­ber. The same is the case with the tribes­men of all the tribal agen­cies.

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