In July, Kurram was caught up in a violent dispute over property issues between two local parties. A long spell of intense fighting brought Kurram to its knees, but after political intervention, a treaty was made. However, the prolonged violence worsened the already challenging circumstances of the Christian community.
“We haven’t been paid for over twelve months. Even before this stoppage [of fighting], we were only paid half amounts or even less,” says Mumtaz*, a married Christian father of seven. “Our retired employees haven’t received their benefits in two or three years. A few among them have died because of this.”
The Christian community in Kurram consists of 89 families, with the majority of them being sanitation workers. The vulnerable community lives in a small, poorly conditioned sweepers quarters, a residence given to them by the local government. When the recent fighting erupted, Mumtaz and others were left with no choice but to face severe health issues, food shortages and security threats.
In a heart-wrenching plea for support, Mumtaz shares, “We have protested numerous times in front of the press and government offices, but our cries for help seem to fall on deaf ears. We are threatened to abandon our protests or face termination. The weight of survival hangs heavily upon us, as we fear losing our livelihoods and the roofs over our heads.”
As if the lack of salary wasn’t enough, food security in the area has become a major crisis. The community’s economy, heavily reliant on trade with Afghanistan, has stalled as they have halted trade. This is an isolated area, and transport in and out has been blocked. As a result, essential commodities have become scarce, and what is available demands excessive prices.