By Nabi Jan Orakzai
The recently constructed wall by the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) separating the Hayatabad Township at Phase-III from Tajabad locality for security purposes has become a hurdle for the people of the adjoining villages to continue their day to day business in the twon.
More importantly, it has been badly affecting the schooling of the poor children of Tajabad and other adjacent villages, who, before the erection of the wall, could easily walk into the township to pursue education in government schools.
A dweller of Tajabad, Muhammad Riaz had no other option but to drop his two children from the primary school in Phase-III. “My sons were enrolled in the government primary school but after the construction of the boundary wall, it is almost difficult for them to reach school in time. Being a poor person, I cannot afford to arrange private transport for their pick and drop. I am totally clueless what to do,” a worried Riaz says.
According to local residents, there is no single government school in Tajabad. Resultantly, dozens of children, mostly from poor families, are attending schools in the adjacent Phase-III of the Hayatabad Township.
Before the construction of the 2.5 kilometer long wall in the east of Phase-III, the locals inform, they used to walk for about three to four hundred yards alongside the dried stream and could easily cross into the township for schooling and other businesses. But now they take a bit longer routes either through Ring Road or through the Board bazaar.
Jawad, a fourth grade student, says that due to the construction of wall, he has to travel additional 3km path to reach his school. “It wastes our time and money,” he says. “Earlier, we had a shortcut route but now we take a longer path. We walk for an hour to reach the school, Jawad tells. “Most of the time, we do not reach school in time. The teachers then do not allow us to take classes for late coming.”
Muhammad Shafi, the headmaster of the government school No.5 in Phase-III also admits that ever since the construction of the boundary wall, the daily attendance of students has been affected. “We have about 350 students enrolled in the school. Among them, about 30% are coming from the Tajabad locality. Most of the time they do not reach school in time and thus they are not allowed to take classes by teachers. The grown up students still can manage it but the real problem is for the little students who find it difficult to reach school in time,” Shafi explains.
Likewise, girls’ education is also being affected with the construction of the barrier. Dozens of girl students coming from poor neighborhoods in the aforementioned villages find it difficult to walk long distance for reaching their schools. The principal of the girls’ high school No.2 in Phase-III, Hayatabad Ms Nazakat Kulsoom says that as many as 20 girls from Tajabad locality left the school since the construction of the boundary wall.
According to the town planners, the erection of boundary wall in Phase-III is part of the “Safe Hayatabad” project. Apart from constructing a wall around the township, a separate force comprising 200 personnel has also been raised. Hayatabad’s chief security officer Syed Khalid Shah claims that after the implementation of the project by the government, crime rate in the township has dropped by 40%.
However, the people of Tajabad think the wall means a division between rich and poor people. “The crime rate in higher in Hayatabad than Tajabad, then how they say it (the wall) has been erected to control crimes,” questions Shamsul Qamar, a resident of Tajabad.
“Aren’t we Pakistanis?” he questions and in the same breath answers himself, saying, “those living in Hayatabad and outside it are equal Pakistanis.”
Drawing comparison between crime rates in Tajabad and Hayatabad, Qamar says whenever he goes to the township, he parks vehicle inside the home or locks to protect it from being lifted. But in Tajabad, he uses to park car outside home and nobody dares to touch it.
Apart from school kids, large number of residents of Tajabad also used to come to the Basharat Market in Phase-III for purchasing daily use items. After the construction of the wall, they prefer to go to Ring road or Board bazaar, thus affecting the daily businesses of the shopkeepers in Basharat Market.
A baker Naveedullah says he has been running the shop for the last ten years. He adds that after the construction of the wall, large number of his customers have stopped coming to his shop. “I am planning to close the shop as I cannot afford to pay salaries of the workers from my pocket,” the baker says.
Jawad and other residents of Tajabad demand that the government should either construct gates in the boundary wall for their easy access or build a school for them in Tajabad. “Installation of gates in the wall will enable children to continue their schooling and at the same time, the security of Hayatabad is also ensured.
An elected councilor from Hayatabad Zahid Shinwari backs the demand of Tajabad residents saying PDA has installed gates in security wall separating the town from Khyber Agency which has allowed smugglers to enter Peshawar through these entrances. “I demand the construction of gates for the school going children and peaceful dwellers of Tajabad and nearby villages, so that they could enter the town for daily business without any hurdle” asks Shinwari.
Syed Khalid Ali Shah, the security officer of the Safe Hayatabad project says he understands miseries and sufferings of Tajabad residents caused by construction of the wall.
“I have held several meetings with the area’s elders and listened to their grievances,” he informs. “I personally met with Director General, PDA and apprised him about the problems being faced by the school kids. We are considering different options including installation of gate to address the inconveniences caused by the wall, however, we have not reached a solution as yet” he reveals.