BARA: Even though peace seems to have been restored in the Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency, the government is yet to overcome major obstacles of reconstruction of infrastructure and provision of basic facilities to the returning IDPs. Once considered a stronghold of militant organisations, the plains of Bara, have now been purged of militants. A number of militants belonging to several prominent militant outfits, active in the region, have surrendered to the security forces in the aftermath of successive military operation. Many of the surrendered militants have also been rehabilitated while some of them have been released on their pledge to live a peaceful life. The overall security situation has improved considerably, according to Muhammad Arif, assistant political agent in Bara subdivision. He said that all areas had been cleared of militants and a large number of displaced families had also returned to their hometowns. However, some parts of Upper Bara tehsil, even though cleared, are yet to be opened for the returning families, the official added. “Around 3,000-4,000 families are yet to return to their hometowns in Upper Bara tehsil,” he maintained. Nevertheless, massive efforts are still needed to uplift the living standards of the residents, by providing them with basic amenities of life such as health, education and employment opportunities. During a tour to the devastated tehsil of Khyber Agency, it was revealed that the only reconstruction carried out so far included blacktopping a small portion of a main road, establishment of a handful of educational institutions and a few healthcare facilities. Water supply schemes are yet to be initiated in the subdivision while a large part of the population is still forced to drink the muddy and contaminated water from River Bara and Spera Dam. The education and health sectors are also in shambles as a significant proportion of schools, colleges and hospitals had been damaged during the militancy in the area in 2007. Apart from mentioning the psychological impacts of living a displaced life for years, the residents of Bara have not yet been provided with ample employment opportunities to win bread for their families. Despite the fact that the residents have suffered immensely during the successive and extensive military operations in the recent past, a majority of them is still hopeful and have even started rebuilding their partially or completely damaged houses with a renewed zeal. Almost all of mosques, schools and shops present a deserted look. However, spirit still run high among the residents who suffered heavily during the military operation against militants. A number of displaced persons from Bara subdivision, who lived an arduous life in displacement, said, “Although peace has prevailed in the area but basic facilities like health and education are still lacking.” Talking to Daily Times, Jamil Khan, a resident of Malik Garhi, said, “No doubt, law and order situation has improved and we are happy about it but the problem is that a majority of people has lost their sources of income and no alternative arrangements have yet been made for them.” According to an estimate, as many as 10,000 shops and business places were forced to close down due to the militants’ activities and the resulting military operations in the once famous Bara Bazaar. The industrial zone in Alam Gudar area, which once consisted of more than 100 cottage industries including textile mills, plastic, cigarette and ice factories also faced closure two years ago. Another resident of adjoining Peepal Garhi, Mateen Khan, said, “There are not job opportunities in the area.” He maintained that after they returned to their village, they were provided with food packages for initial six months by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Rs 35,000 as compensation by the government. “Nobody bothered to think what would happen to us after the six months when we run out of those aid supplies,” he lamented. He urged the government to focus on creating employment opportunities and building more schools and hospitals in the area, besides reconstructing the damaged ones and operationalising the closed ones. “The essence of peace can only be achieved after we are brought back to our normal lives,” he noted. Hashim Ali, a student, said he had to sever his education for nearly two years due to the military operations. “After return to our hometown, I could not go back to school to resume my studies as my father was unemployed and I had to support my family,” Ali said. Out of 400 schools and colleges in Bara, 172 schools for both boys and girls suffered severe damages, according to the agency’s education authorities. Sher Zaman Khan, assistant education officer of the area, said that out of 172 affected facilities, 115 were fully damaged and 57 partially damaged. He added that only a small number of schools have been reconstructed so far. Earlier this year, authorities concerned claimed to commence reconstruction work on the damaged schools in the Bara subdivision of the Khyber agency, however, the slow pace of work was impacting the enrolment in the schools to a great deal. The situation of health sector is also not very satisfactory, as around 60 percent reconstruction work of hospitals has not yet been completed in the subdivision. More than 20 BHUs, which used to operate in the tehsil were completely destroyed during the days of militancy, a health official told Daily Times on the condition of anonymity. “However, not even half of the damaged healthcare units have yet been reconstructed or made operational,” he said. The Tehsil Headquarters Hospital is also in a very shabby state. Although it is currently functional for the treatment of the tribes’ people, many wards for patients and residences for the staff have not been reconstructed, stated Abdul Qudoos, medical superintendent of the facility.