Pakistan: Pashtun hospitality for 19 adults, 25 children, and four camels
Why Pakistanis open their homes to refugees from the fighting in Swat Valley and Buner.
(Page 2 of 2)
In a repeat of scenes after the devastating 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, residents have been driving up to the camps to drop off food, drinking water, and hand fans, says Mr. Saleem. He and a group of students back at his university in the Netherlands have pooled together 3,500 euros, which they will use to buy supplies: pillows, lighting, mattresses, and hand fans.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But perhaps the most impressive donations are the open doors.
Making room for 150 guests
Fazli Rabbi, a farmer in Swabi, welcomed some relatives from Buner into his home, providing lodging for 150 people.
It's meant a few adjustments for his family of 13. The family removed all the beds and laid down carpets to sleep on instead. The kitchen in his 2,000 square-foot home no longer suffices, so they now cook outdoors. The baking of bread in a tandoor oven – a chore that once took 30 minutes – now stretches from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The timing of this influx of guests couldn't be better. Farms in Swabi have just finished harvesting their wheat and now enjoy a lull before the next planting season. Each day, the refugees staying here make a trek over to the official camp in the hopes of getting some food and any supplies to ease the burden on their hosts. Each day, they come back empty-handed.
"We need a ration card to get something, but it's very hard to get a card," says Zarjamil Khan. "People who are in the camps, they are in real trouble. Compared with them, we are very blessed."
Neighbors are putting up other refugees who fled together as a group from Buner. Fifteen men sleep in the mosque, the women and children have been given lodging in the hujra. Local doctors came and gave out 14,000 rupees worth of medicine and tended to the shell-shocked children. For now, the vegetables of the farm are tossed into a huge pot and boiled, recreating a daily loaves-and-fishes miracle of sorts.
Islamic roots of hospitality
For the Muslim residents here, the religious parallel is to the flight of the prophet Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina. To make sure all were provided for, Mohammad set up a system known as muakhat – "brotherhood" – where he paired one resident of Medina with one resident of Mecca and declared them brothers. Henceforth, the brother in Medina would share his home and his livelihood with his brother from Mecca.
Zarjamil is grateful for the brotherhood of his distant relatives and the strangers in the neighborhood.
"The locals here have taken every burden on their shoulders to help us," he says. "This is both Islamic and pashtunwalli, and if this kind of situation came on these people then we would also help them."