Our Swat Relief drive on Day 3 [Saturday] was hectic to say the least. We [Hasnain, Youshey, me & Faris] left Peshawar around 9am without breakfast, our aim was to start bright and early to first head to Bagheecha Deri where around 150 bags had been delivered a night before stored safely in Inam’s house.
Enroute we received news that the third truck from Makro Lahore was also reaching Mardan and it was then we decided to split our teams, Faris and I continued to Baghecha Deri whilst Youshey and Hasnain would escort the truck to our warehouse in Takht Bhai, oversee the offloading and prepare for the delivery of 250 hampers to refugee families housed within the Takht Bhai region.
Despite our insistence, Inam had not assembled a crowd at Bagheecha Deri as we arrived on location town and quickly requested a few local maluvis to announce the availability of relief aid. Within moments we had a small crowd, this being our first experience with distribution we had a small confusion, documentation was needed and we requested only those refugees with an ID card as well as the Yellow social services relief card. In the meley we were worried about locals falsely claiming to be refugees, which was tough but kept to a minimum to the extent that we had to bluntly refuse hampers to a few very vocal and insistent pathans. The other strategy we tried to deploy was to confiscate the ID card and the Yellow refugee registration card until our processing was complete after which a local would carefully distribute these to the rightful owners, this ploy was used to prevent duplication, though locals helping us would quickly identify the offender but there was a chance a sneaky IDP might get through the loop.
Bagheecha Deri disbursement was done quickly and then we headed towards Takht Bhai, where the the third truck was in the process of being offloaded. Even before our arrival at Takht Bhai Youshey and Dr. Maqbool Shah had departed with approximately 120 relief hampers to go around Takht Bhai targeting the local refugees in schools and hujras. Their progress was slow as frequent stops catering to 4-5 families was the norm and it took a short process to physically verify each recipient.
By now we had a small crown assembled at our warehouse mostly consisted of women folk of the affected families and were anxiously waiting for some aid, seeing the need to hand these refugees some relief we asked them to form a line and calmly distributed some 30-40 hampers amongst the few. This short distribution tended to be a strategic mistake on hindsight as very soon the word spread around like wildfire that relief goods were being distributed within the Takht Bhai hospital premises and ever so slowly the crowd swelled to an unmanageable lot by late evening
The hectic afternoon we prepared another set of 300 relief hampers for Parkhro Deri where a local nazim [PPP] had organized a distribution point for us. Hasnain was sent to Parkhro Deri where he did his best to filter the deserving from the fakes, the organizers were naturally insistent on pushing their favorites ahead but Hasnain held his ground and forced for an orderly distribution. On their return they shared their experience of the massive crowd of 500+ families with our provisions of barely 300 relief hampers leaving a disgruntled crowd.
Around 6pm we had technically run out of the 800 relief hamper bags that were provided to us by Makro and still had a lot of loose aid lying around, abundant water bottles, sugar bags, biscuits, tea and many other items. This provided us an idea to disburse directly to the roadside refugees, it would have been impossible to setup relief centers on the road and expect an orderly distribution as in all likelihood open air disbursement was prone to ransacking, so our plan was to ramble across the road tossing essential relief goods enroute, these registered or unregistered were refugees that had recently setup camp after the curfew in swat, moreorless genuine IDP’s. Our team hired two pickups and loaded them with loose items like Ghee, Biscuits and Tea. The plan was to keep the car moving along while tossing these essential items to those poor stranded IDP’s. The plan worked, we were mobbed but the moving vehicle kept the snatching away. It was a sad sight to see people fighting over food, but on hindsight I felt satisfied that we were able to directly touch the lives of many extremely deserving people who did not even have a shelter over their heads. The only problem with our mobile stock was that cooking oil cans could not be tossed into the houses and we ended up handing them to elderly people who came to our trucks, but tea packs and biscuits were carefully tossed to the women [in purdah] inside these refugee camps whilst at the same time we handed a few to the young folk running alongside
Having run two sorties of direct relief to the roadside refugees we came back to base camp in time to watch the angry crowd swelled up outside out warehouse, seeing an eminent disaster waiting to happen I requested the Mardan president of PTI to help disburse the crowd, he was kind enough to talk to the people and slowly things did pacify enabling us to mobilize our last set of disbursements to a local NGO called KhwandKho which is a reliable set of people working with Omar Asghar Foundation and we were assured that these items would be sorted out to the various schools that had been adopted by Khwandhko Foundation. Leaving us with the only last few items which were approximately 40 stainless steel dishes, 50 stainless steel serving spoons and a few stainless steel glasses which were handed out to some women refugees around the area.
Wrapping up the day we realized none of us had breakfast and neither lunch apart from the free flowing tea we were running on mere adrenaline. Late at night I sat down to pay off all dues, to various truck drivers while offering a short stipend to a few helpful members who spent the two days doing most of the hard labor in our noble cause, most of whom refused the stipend as they said it was their own contribution to the noble cause. At 1am we landed in Peshawar and had some much needed food courtesy of a local friend Rashid Chughtai, whose team we had extensively used for the past three days aiding us in translation and physical labour. The full critical analysis of the trip will shortly follow after the Day 4 update very soon