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Saturday Feb 15 2020

Geo Special Report: Since he was 9, Abdul Hakeem Teghani has been out for 'revenge'

Abdul Hakeem Teghani is just about to enter his teens. He's 12 years of age.

For him, it has become a habit to visit the grave of his beloved close friend and paternal cousin, Ghulam Ali Teghani.

His parents' only child, Ghulam Ali was the most educated boy in the village. He had passed his intermediate exams; he was a Hafiz-e-Quran

Understanding the need for educating the youth and staying away from petty disputes, he used to teach children in the village.

Sadly, however, he was shot dead by tribal opponents, leaving his elderly parents without support. 

Now, tribal traditions dictate that Abdul Hakeem avenge his murdered cousin brother and friend.

Abdul Hakeem. Geo News screengrab

After offering prayers at Ghulam Ali's grave, young Abdul Hakeem mans a checkpoint just outside his village. He sits there waiting; hoping that his cousin's enemies will cross his path and he can fulfill his tribal obligations. 

The village cemetery houses 10 other graves of residents killed in tribal spats.

Violence as a way of life

When we arrive at Muhammad Azeem Teghani Goth, the Teghanis' village, we find ourselves surrounded by armed men. From somewhere afar, we can hear gunshots. 

Though silence welcomes us at the village, the tension in the air is heavy, almost electric.

Just outside the village, armed men patrol the fields. Some are positioned inside cemented checkpoints. 

Even small children can be seen sitting in makeshift outposts, clutching Kalashnikov rifles.

Childhood lost

At an age when they are supposed to be in school, the children of this village have been tasked with the duty to keep up patrols and monitor everyone who enters the village or even passes by.

Violence is ingrained as a way of life. In the same village, our paths cross with a young man who is hard of hearing. Someone apparently told him that we came to help mediate the dispute. 

He angrily signs to us that he is not willing to set aside any differences and reconcile.

Geo News screen grab

He, too, is resentful of his cousin's murder.

Abdul Hakeem, alongside other boys of his age, is part of this culture.

He says he wishes to go to school. He wants to study so that he can become a police officer when he grows up. He yearns to bring peace to his village.

But with the village remains hell-bent on payback for Ghulam's murder, can anyone replace the Kalashnikov in Abdul Hakeem's hands with a pen?

And it's not just about Abdul Hakeem: in an environment poisoned by notions of tribal honour and revenge, each of the village's residents worries the same for their children. 

The only hurdle in the path to peace and progress, however, are local traditions and the tribal elders' orders.