FREELY Blemished gem of Pakistan's tribal
regions By Khan Zeb Burki
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Fighting in the
AfPak region since the September 11, 2001 attacks
has turned the tribal areas of Pakistan into a
hell on earth, with the toppling of the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan by Western forces paving the
way for an emergence of Taliban groups in
Waziristan and other bordering regions.
Counter-measures in shape of Pakistan
military operations since have deprived the people
in these regions of hope. Their culture, language,
economy and social life have been crushed between
the militants and the
military, with the Mehsud and Burki tribes of
Waziristan losing their identity and the tribal
and linguistic history of the scenic area of
Kaniguram under threat.
Located in the
heart of South Waziristan's Mehsud area, Kaniguram
is densely populated town inhabited mostly by the
Burki/Urmar tribe and a mixture of other Pakhtun
tribes, including the Mehsud and the Wazir, who
known as kandkimor live in the upper part of town.
Kaniguram or Kanigram is known locally as Shora (Pashto) while in Burki language is called Shor, a scenic place full of natural beauty.
Rainwater streams or lgad run on both sides
of Kaniguram. The mesmerizing beauty of the area
once attracted people to the town from across
Waziristan and adjacent areas. However, since
Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation) was
launched by the Pakistan army in 2009, most
residents have been forced to flee the region.
The language of the Burki people now faces
a severe threat of extinction. The war forced the
inhabitants of Kaniguram to take shelter in other
parts of Pakistan. Some left for big cities like
Karachi and Islamabad, while others are now
spending their lives as internally displaced
persons (IDPs), know locally as mutasireen
in the adjacent districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Before displacement, these people lived
closely together in one town, but now they are
miserably dispersed and cannot remain in touch.
The language of Burki/Urmari is taking its last
breaths, and if no proper attention is given to
the issue, will cease to exist.
tribe, also known as the Urmar, have been the
primary inhabitants of Kaniguram since the reign
of Mehmood Ghaznavi, who from 997-1030 AD ruled
the Ghaznavid Empire centered in modern-day
Kaniguram is an historic town
built on a mountain. The houses have been built
close together in such a manner that the rooftop
of one sits immediately below the lawn of the
other. From a distance, these houses seem to be
ladder steps. A recent increase in the population
of Kaniguram had led to people inhabiting the
other mountains around the old city, and at night
the city looked like a dense galaxy surrounded by
Kaniguram has historically
been a seat of learning where people from the
region including Afghanistan came to quench their
thirst for knowledge. It has still significant
importance in education and learning in
Waziristan. The people are of a soft and mild
nature with good reasoning ability and judgment.
The inventor of Pashto script, which
ensured Pashto literature and writing, and the
pioneer of the Rokhaniya Movement, Pir Rokhan was
from Kaniguram. The city is famous for its saints,
and the local poets call it Kor Dy Ziuratay (Home
of Shrines). The city is surrounded by numbers of
tombs in which Kaka Ziarat, Gharibak, Mian Khani,
Mian Gee, Mian Pirwali, Mian Shakarzen (Shikari),
Mamund, Mamakaran, Pacha Sahib, Eidgai Ziarat,
Sarind Gharay Ziarat, and Yeksir are prominent. It
is also famous for its jewelry and draggers. Its
draggers (locally known as fawladi khanger
or chura) are famous in the tribal and
However, because of
ongoing military operations the beautiful town is
now deserted. More than 100,000 IDPs from
Kaniguram are holding iron keys to open their
locked doors, while not knowing the real state of
their home. Pictures of the area show a scene of
destroyed homes where silence reigns. These images
have made some people so desperate that they have
abandoned their decision to return home because
the cost of reconstruction is so high.
Destruction is easier than construction.
For the army, it was easy to bomb a house during
the operation without considering rebuilding
expenses - a single brick costs 25 Pakistani
rupees ($0.25) in the region. Many are calling for
the government should increase the rehabilitation
compensation from 25,000 Pakistani rupees to a
minimum of 200,000, as well as for it to provide
living facilities to IDPs in refugee camps and in
their hometowns on their return.
preservation of the culture, language and identity
of the people of Kaniguram will only be possible
if its residents are allowed to return to their
hometown and provided with all living facilities.
If this can happen, this historic and scenic area
will become a hub of tourism activity.
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Khan Zeb Burki is an M Phil
scholar and tribal affairs analyst. He can be
reached at email@example.com.