PESHAWAR – Packing up his luggage in his make-shift hut in Jalozai camp near Peshawar, Khaista Rehman, 53, is preparing to return to his hometown to celebrate the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“This is the first good news I have heard since I left my home over three months ago that I am going to spend the holy month of Ramadan at my own home,” an evidently jubilant Khaista, a father of five, told OnIslam.net.
Rehman was one of around 200,000 people, who had been forced to flee from Tirah valley, a far-flung area of Khyber agency, over fighting between Taliban militants and army troops.
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Most of the displaced people took refuge in adjoining Kurram agency, Orakzai agency, Kohat, Hangu, and Peshawar.
Many are living off-camp in settlements and rented houses with local host communities.
But days before the start of Ramadan, the refugees got good news from governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province to return home after the end of the military operation in the area.
“I have this good news to tell you that you and your people will Inshaullah return to your homes before start of Ramadan,” governor Shaukatullah told a tribal Jirga (assembly) in Jamrud, the capital of Khyber agency, 15km north of Peshawar.
The government also ordered a quick survey of the damage caused by the heavy fighting to the houses and other properties of tribesmen.
“I am not much worried about damage. The excitement of returning home before Ramadan is simply overwhelming,” Rehman maintained.
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, is set to start on July 9.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
Rehman said his return to his hometown adds to his joy of the holy fasting month.
“I have been worried about spending Ramadan in a 14/12 size hut here in this shelter camp with five children,” he told OnIslam.net.
“Reports coming from Tirah were not good too suggesting that I would not be able to return to my home for next many months,” said Rehman, a shopkeeper in a Tirah bazaar.
“We could not get hold of even our belongings while fleeing the area. We could hardly pick up few clothes, some cash, and some edible items. The only thought in my mind at that time was to save my family.
“I thought I would have to rely on government’s aid or assistance from some Islamic charities operating here to spend Ramadan and celebrate `Eid,” he remarked.
“But all of a sudden, this good news changed the entire scenario.
“Thanks to Allah. He has heard my prayers, and I am going to spend Ramadan at my home,” a smiling Rehman said.
Hidayatullah Khan, a farmer from Tirah valley, shares the excitement.
“Everyone is happy here after hearing this news,” Khan told OnIslam.net.
“Look at their faces, don’t they look happy,” Khan said, pointing at half a dozen IDPs surrounding him.
Haneef Khan, a student of grade 12, too appears to be excited.
“This all still seems to be unbelievable,” Haneef told OnIslam.net with a big smile on his brown-bearded face.
“You are talking about Ramadan, but here we were not expecting to return even before `Eid,” he said in reply to a question as to whether he was expecting this news before Ramadan.
“A few days ago, we were conveyed by the administration that there was no immediate chance of returning home in near future.
“But miracles do happen, and one of them is before you,” said a jubilant Haneef, citing an unexpected return of displaced people to their homes before Ramadan.
Despite an overwhelming excitement, the displaced tribesmen appear to be little worried about the security situation in his hometown.
“I am hopeful that nothing untoward would happen Inshaullah during this holy month as we expect both sides (military and Taliban) to maintain the sanctity of this holy month,” said Khan.
“But, let me admit, I still harbor fear in my mind.”
Citing various incidents of sudden firing from one side and instantly answered by other side, Khan said such security threats may prevent many not to return immediately.
“I am not the one of them but I know many who want to wait and see,” he maintained.
Though he agrees with Khan, Haneef is going to take a chance.“I hope that there will be a peaceful Ramadan for us Inshaullah.”
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