Residents of Zhirai district have not returned home
KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): Residents of Zhirai district in southern Kandahar province are still waiting to return home, months after the area was cleared of Taliban by Afghan and coalition forces at the end of last year.
Bombs litter the roads and orchards, homes remain damaged and many facilities have not been reinstated, they say.
“Security has come to the district and the Taliban have left,” said Allah Noor, 47, from Sang Hisar village in Zhirai. However, he said that homes and gardens had been destroyed.
“I have a house and 3 acres of grapes, but half the garden has been devastated as it was used as a road by foreign troops,” he said.
Authorities have promised to pay compensation to those whose homes and farms were damaged, but so far no one had received anything, he said.
Shahzada, another resident of Zhirai, said: “Since the Taliban left, the government pledged to start reconstruction work in the district, but nothing has been done.
“Thousands of families fled their villages and are now living in the nearby desert.”
Abdul Wadod, a resident of Sang Hisar said that before the operation there were 500 families in his village, but now there are just two as everyone else fled to the desert.
People don’t want to return home because they are afraid the fighting will resume and also because of the landmines and other explosives that could still be around.
Wadod said that his grapes orchard, a room that was used to make dry grapes to raisins and his house were all destroyed in the operation that started last September.
He estimates the total damage to be about 500,000 afghanis,($11,000) and says he submitted all the paperwork necessary to claim compensation but has not yet received anything.
Mosques, schools and clinics were also destroyed in the fighting and need to be rebuilt.
Nazar Mohammad, 24, from Sia Joy village, said he had to stop his education several years ago because of the insecurity, and then the schools were closed.
“If all closed schools reopen, I will definitely restart my education.”
Abdul Wahid, 32, from Kulak, said he was delighted about the improved security as the Taliban used to intimidate, beat and imprison people.
“We were harassed a lot and not allowed by Taliban to go to pray at the mosque at night as that’s when they were planting their bombs. They told us that if we left our homes, we would be the victims of the explosions.”
He also said that the Taliban made thousands of bombs and sent them to other districts of Kandahar.
The Taliban, who he said were not from their villages, but from Pakistan and Helmand province, would knock on villagers’ door at midnight and ask for yogurt and bread.
Sometimes they would be detained, hand-cuffed, shackled, blindfolded and later on imprisoned in a container or in a mosque until elders intervened for their release.
He said there were some Taliban still in some areas, but in those places where there were checkpoints, the Taliban had not returned.
He asked for more checkpoints in Zhirai so that the Taliban do not return.
Toryalai Weesa, the governor of Kandahar province, said he was working hard to resolve the problems of the residents of Zhirai.
“According to the plan, the recent operation has three parts in all districts of Kandahar: security, good governance, and reconstruction. He said that Arghandab, Dand, Zhirai and Panjwoy districts were part of the plan.
“Before the completion of the recent operations, all economic and developmental meetings were held in the office of the governor, but now because of the improved security, they are being held in the districts.”
The meetings will be held every week between heads of all departments of Kandahar district councils. They will hear the problems of the people and work for a solution.”
Before the operation, there was only the governor and a police chief in each district, but now they are hiring another 20 people for Arghandab, 10 for Panjwoy and six in Zhirai to work in delivering health care, education, justice, courts and other services.
Weesa acknowledged that a number of homes had been destroyed in the operation, but said many of those who claimed were living in houses that had already been ruined 30 years ago during the Soviet occupation.
“For the last few years, many homes were left empty and Taliban stored lots of IEDs there and there was no way to destroy them without the house exploding,” he added.
The governor said they would repair destroyed homes with the assistance of foreign donors so that people can return to their villages and live permanently.
He said they would be compensated if they returned home.
Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, the governor of Zhirai, said the priority was to return people to their homes and then reconstruction on schools and clinics could start.
Zhirai is located 25 kilometres to the east of Kandahar city on Kandahar-Herat highway.
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