BANNAU - As livestock constitutes a very important component of the agricultural economy, majority of the tribesmen in North Waziristan Agency has been deprived of this social utility in the backwash of the military offensive Zarb-e-Azb. While fleeing North Waziristan, some of the tribesmen left behind their animals, some of the animals went missing or died before reaching exit point at Saidgai and those tribesmen who managed in bringing their livestock out of the restive tribal agency were fleeced by the opportunist dealers to such an extent that the prices of animals, especially goats and sheep, were lowered down in all cattle markets of Bannu.

The cattle market is located in a congested part of Bannu where animals are taken through narrow and congested lanes that cause long traffic jam especially on Friday - the day specified for the weekly bazaar. Although the area where the buffalos, oxen, cows, donkeys and other large domesticated animals are dealt is quite open yet the part of market which is situated on the backside of the open area in narrow lane and deals in sheep and goats is very congested. On Friday one can find herds of goats and sheep over the lane where apart from animals, fodder and veterinary medicines are also sold. There are some shops dealing in furs and animal skins.

According to local animal dealers, since the tribesmen of North Waziristan have thronged Bannu city, a large number of goats and sheep are lined up for sale in the local market. “I never saw such a great number of animals in this particular market. Due to increase in the number of animals in the market the prices have come down,” said Aslam Khan who has been dealing in animal business in the market for the last 37 years. “Three to five thousand rupees reduction is visible in the price of each and every animal,” he said.

Akbar Khan, a butcher from Bannu, said that the prices of goats and sheep were down but no change in the values of cattle like cows and other large domesticated ungulates was visible. “The tribesmen are selling goats and sheep but they are trying their level best to accommodate their cows and buffalos in their rented houses,” he said. However, the prices of meat both mutton and beef are unchanged.

At the initial stage of migration, many tribesmen sold their animals even before reaching Bannu city. Bakka Khel-Bannu Road was an ideal place for the local ‘opportunist dealers’ to hunt and exploit the situation. After fleecing the tribesmen, the dealers either transported the stock to different parts of the country or they are now selling the animals in the market of Bannu and Lakki Marwat. During a visit to animal market on Friday, this scribe saw some tribesmen of North Waziristan while selling their animals in the market.

The tribesmen complain that without keeping their troubles in mind, local dealers in Bannu were exploiting them by offering unreasonable prices.

“It was very difficult to bring animals out of Waziristan. After almost 48 hours journey, I reached Bannu along with my animals; I was hoping to sell and meet the expenses of our stay in the town. But the prices of animal are very low,” said Adbar Dawar of Mosaki North Waziristan.

Iqdad Dawar, a tribesman from Miranshah, while pointing towards his goat said, “Quite recently I got this goat from a farmer in Serai Naurang after paying Rs 12,000 but now I have Rs 5000 as the highest ever offer since morning,” he added.

A happy old woman walking with a sheep along the road was accompanying by her grandson Shah Qayaz. “Since last month I had been looking for a sheep but the prices were very high. Today, I paid Rs 11,000 for the sheep which was not even available earlier at Rs 16,000,” she said.   

On the other hand, the prices of animal fodder have witnessed sharp surge in the recent weeks due to the mass migration of tribesmen to the city. Grass is ideal food for the goats and sheep but its price is going up and up which the poor tribesmen could not afford to feed their animals with. The tribesmen are confused to make any decision - if they sell the animals then the prices are low, if they don’t sell then they could not afford to buy fodder for their goats and sheep.

“Due to high demand, the price of a giddy (bundle of grass) has jumped to Rs 20 from Rs 10,” said old man Saeed Noor who was sitting near a heap of grass in the cattle market of Bannu.

Many tribesmen who could not bring their animals with them revealed that they untied and left the beasts astray to graze in the fields. “It was very hard time and my first priority was to take my family out of the troubled area, I left animals astray and started moving towards Saidgai checkpoint,” said Ali Akbar whose family reached Bannu from Mir Ali on foot. He further said, “There would be very little chances to find the animals that we left behind in village,” he said.

Since the start of military operation, around 456,508 tribesmen have left North Waziristan while some of the families are still fleeing the area. Majority of people had reached Bannu on foot, as they could not afford the high prices of transportation. A considerable number of tribes while leaving North Waziristan on foot were unable to bring their poultry with them to safer places. “I left my hens, cocks and chicks inside my home and left a door opened to allow the birds to go outside,” said Ahmad shah Dawar of Aisori village in North Waziristan.

After conversing with different tribesmen of North Waziristan in Bannu, this scribe found that long journey in scorching heat also caused health issues in animals that forced the local administration to impose emergency in different veterinary hospitals of the district. Apart from the animal husbandries, hundreds of animals were treated and provided with fodder in a camp set up in FR Bakka Khel.

Dr Qismat Ullah Khan, in-charge Civil Veterinary Hospital Bannu, said, “A large number of animals died before reaching Bannu due to dehydrations and other complication. However, in Bannu the animals of IDPs were being treated free of cost.” He further said, “We have treated around 160 animals of tribesmen at this facility.”