by Shaukat Khattak
BANNU, Pakistan- For half a million Pakistanis displaced by a military offensive, the prospect of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan amid severe food shortages has sharpened anger towards the government.
The military began long-anticipated strikes on the North Waziristan tribal district in mid-June, hoping for a swift victory over a resurgent Taliban enemy in the aftermath of a bloody attack on the country’s busiest airport in Karachi.
Far from the comforts of home in their cool mountainous district, many displaced people are facing up to life in tent villages a few kilometres east of the region’s border.
Temperatures approach 50C (122F) and riots frequently break out over the lack of food supplies.
At a food distribution point in the town of Bannu, Niaz Wali Khan, a 55-year-old pharmacy owner, told AFP he had been queueing for four days but was turned away without rations each time.
“We are depressed over the role of the military who are responsible for our suffering,” said Khan. “They have launched this operation just before the Holy Month, but these militants were living here for years. Why now?”
But Khan vowed to adhere to the month of fasting required of observant Muslims, which began on Sunday in parts of Pakistan and Monday in others — despite the hurdles.
“We are facing extreme difficulties after the displacement but I will be fasting with a hope that God will solve our problems,” he said.
Others were less confident they would meet the challenge.
“We have spent all our money paying to rent vehicles to get here and for accommodation. Now it seems we will only have water left to break our fasts,” said 43-year-old Jalat Khan, who was also standing in line.