By Zia Ur Rehman
Monday, June 15, 2015
Standing atop a hill in the impoverished area of Gulshan-e-Buner, Gul Muhammad Mamond, a young social activist, looks over the Arabian Sea coast.
He is there to find some respite from the blistering summer heat as there is no electricity in the neighbourhood for last two days.
From stories of Taliban violence to the residents’ struggle without basic civic facilities, Mamond has much to tell. “We, the daily wage workers who live in Gulshan-e-Buner, are compelled to live without drinking water and electricity and with swarms of mosquitoes, piles of garbage and overflowing gutters.”
Gulshan-e-Buner has become infamous in the last five years because of the presence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants there.
Finally, following the law enforcement agencies’ crackdown on terrorists in the area, peace has returned there for the last several months.
However, the residents demand that the government should launch mega development projects in the neighbourhood for sustainable peace.
Gulshan-e-Buner is a Pashtun-populated locality in Landhi Industrial Area. It is adjacent to Rehri Goth, a fisherfolk neighbourhood, on the Arabian Sea coast on its south, Muzaffarabad Colony on its east and Sherpao Colony on its west.
It falls within the constituencies of NA-258 and PS-128, from where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Abdul Hakeem Baloch and Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Syed Waqar Shah were elected in the 2013 general polls respectively.
Residents say that Gulshan-e-Buner was founded in 1994 by a Pakistan People’s Party leader, Haji Zarshad, who had arrived from the Buner district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In the beginning, Pashtun residents of neighbouring areas, including Muzaffarabad Colony, Muslimabad and Quaidabad, moved there, almost all of them industrial workers.
“Increase in family size compelled them to buy new houses but at cheap rates and at that time, Gulshan-e-Buner, a hilly area, was an ideal place for them,” said Muhammad Ibrahim, one of its earliest residents.
At that time, the price of a plot was Rs20,000 and there were only 200 houses, but now it extends from Rehri Road to Sherpao Colony.
During a recent visit to the Gulshan-e-Buner, residents told The News that the government’s lack of interest in developing the area had made lives very difficult for them.
Despite being a densely-populated area, the residents there are without proper roads, drinking water, a sewerage system, schools, dispensaries and playgrounds.
“It has been 18 years since moved here from Quaidabad, but the civic problems in the area haven’t been resolved yet,” said Khan Wada, another resident.
“No politician, including Baloch and Shah, who were elected from this area, ever visits the area after getting votes from us.”
Most children can be seen roaming the streets as there is no public school in the area. “The residents cannot afford private schools and generally send their children to public school in the nearby New Muzaffarabad Colony, which is also in a pathetic condition,” said Mamond, who also heads a welfare organisation for Bajauri tribesmen.
Gulshan-e-Buner gained notoriety when Taliban terrorists killed polio vaccinators, policemen and Awami National Party activists in the area.
The residents say that the area was very peaceful until 2009, but after a military operation was launched against the Taliban in South Waziristan in October 2009, the relocation of internally displaced persons from the tribal areas to Gulshan-e-Buner created a security situation there.
“At that time, several members of the Mehsud tribe arrived in Gulshan-e-Buner and moved in with their relatives living in the area or rented accommodation,” a resident said. “Some of them also bought the houses in the area as these were comparatively cheaper.”
However, under the guise of the internally displaced persons, many Taliban militants also arrived in the area and set up a sanctuary. “From Gulshan-e-Buner, Taliban terrorists ran their network in a large portion of the city and carried out attacks on cops, political leaders and polio vaccinators,” said a police officer at the Quaidabad police station.
The law enforcement agencies, in their ongoing crackdown, have the Taliban network in the city by killing and arresting a number of their key members.
“Now there is absolute peace in the area. Even, anti-polio workers have been vaccinating our children without police protection,” said Gul Habib, a social worker.
The residents still shudder while recalling the days when the Taliban were present there. They say they stayed home after sunset and many residents relocated to safer neighbourhoods. Property prices also decreased significantly.
“They [Taliban] operated openly in the area and police were completely powerless to stop them,” said Sabir Khan, a transporter who lives there.
Now the residents want the government to pay attention to the development needs of the neighbourhood as they had supported the law enforcement agencies in their operation against terrorists in the area.
“Honestly, Gulshan-e-Buner was an ideal locality for militants. It is an ignored area; there hasn’t been any development work, the roads are still broken and commuting is difficult,” said Khan.
“All this provided the terrorist with a sort of blanket; they could rest easy knowing that anyone coming for them was at a disadvantage.”
Habib too believes that development in the area is essential for ensuing sustainable peace there.
“The law-enforcement agencies, especially Rangers, have done their job by clearing the area of terrorists. Now it is the duty of the civil administration to start some development projects in the area,” he opined.