In the Indian Express, Sushant Singh has a great piece on Miranshah, North Waziristan, close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border which faced much of the brutality of Operation Zarb-e Azb (an attack launched by the Pakistan Army in areas of FATA to ‘flush out’ terrorism. He points out how the area seems like a Potempkin village:
…there is no buzz in the markets and not a soul on the streets. Dotted with Pakistani flags, much of the town lies in ruin.
But that does not deter Pakistan Army from showcasing the new stadium, schools, orphanages, parks, a hospital and market with glistening coats of paint and freshly poured concrete. The Younus Khan sports complex boasts of a modern cricket stadium, a football field and a nine-hole golf course, but there is no one playing anything at 10 in the morning.
In Islamabad, an evening prior, ISPR DG Major General Asif Ghafoor rattled out other figures of “progress” in FATA: 1,700 km of new roads, seven new cadet colleges, water supply through solar power in every village, canals, hospitals, schools and nine new markets.
The main Miranshah market had around a thousand shops which were razed by the Pakistan Army during the fighting. It has constructed 1,340 modern shops which were handed over to local residents a week ago. But the swanky market complex, which seems to have been transplanted in this tribal area straight from the US, is deserted, barring soldiers with machine guns on guard…
Sushant points out that 9 lakh people were internally displaced during the military operations. This is not new to anyone in the Indian sub-continent where the 1947 Partition, the 1971 Bangladesh War and the Sri Lankan Civil War were just some of the conflicts that led people to flee their homes.
Sushant’s article brought to mind a novel that I finished earlier in the week- The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop- which is set against the 1972 Cyprus coup d’etat. The political violence led to the Turkish Cypriots fleeing to the south and the Geek Cypriots fleeing to the north. The most striking part of the novel and the violence that ensued is that the Turkish military fenced off a tourist destination and it continues to be under the Turkish occupation since. (Here are some almost eerie photos of Varosha now.) There have been reports of Turkey allowing its citizens and people of Turkish origin to settle there again. But we do not know if this is a bargaining chip or rhetoric.
Conflict easily uproots people and spaces. Often, post the conflict, the government steps in reallocate property to those affected. But recourse post the trauma barely suffices.