Not only has the theatre of war against the militants in the northwest expanded in recent times, it has also extracted a heavy price in the process by displacing people from various affected areas on a very large scale. The fact must be kept in mind and both state and civil society should come to the aid of the IDPs. According to one relief agency, it has registered over 1.3 million IDPs from the tribal areas. The exodus from Orakzai Agency alone amounts to over 75,000 tribesmen at even conservative estimates. Parts of the agency have reportedly turned into ghost towns where starving children search for food. Unsurprisingly, the battle against militancy has led to mass migration, with people seeking refuge in Kohat and Hangu districts and Khyber Agency. The exodus was a predictable consequence of the operation against the militants, but little evidence is available of the state having made efforts to mitigate the IDPs’ suffering. The sole relief camp in the area is in Hangu district, accommodating less than 4,000 people. There is no room for the hundreds of people streaming into the area everyday. Apparently, no relief camp exists in Kohat district, where over 22,000 IDPs have registered themselves with the social welfare department.
This is an unacceptable situation. The IDPs are caught in a war that is not of their making and they have a right to receive the state’s protection. Tackling the militants must of course continue with full force — after all, just on Wednesday militants blew up five schools and a basic health unit in the Utmankhel area of Orakzai Agency. But the fallout on ordinary citizens must be mitigated as far as possible. The conflict must speedily be brought to a successful closure. Meanwhile, efforts are needed towards setting up relief camps.
“Tackling the militants must of course continue with full force” – Now that is fvcking amazing, isn’t it?
BTW: This is nothing new for Dawn. Exactly a year ago they had a similar piece:
PROTECTING the lives and property of citizens is amongst the most fundamental duties of a government, in fact its raison d’être. In the case of thousands of residents of Pakistan’s militancy-infested areas, however, the state appears to have been unsuccessful on this count. Not only has it failed to effectively curtail the militants’ reign of terror, it has worsened the plight of victims who have borne the brunt of retaliatory military operations. Nor has the state been able to provide meaningful succour to families who were forced to flee. The point is reflected in the grim future faced by internally displaced persons in various parts of the country.
A UNHCR survey estimates that there are over 43,500 IDPs in Islamabad and Rawalpindi alone. Threatened in equal measure by militants and the security forces, these families fled in the hope that the state would come to their rescue. Yet no refugee camp or aid centre has been set up in the twin cities’ jurisdiction and the IDPs have been left to fend for themselves. Little imagination is required to realise that the step from subsistence-living to disillusionment and crime is a short one. However, this realisation is yet to dawn on the federal government that refuses to accommodate refugees in camps anywhere but in the NWFP because of ‘security concerns’.
Meanwhile, an estimated 41,000 IDPs live in the NWFP’s Jalozai camp. They are now being asked to return to their homes since the military operation has ended. Faced with the daunting task of returning to battle-scarred areas, these citizens are demanding that they be compensated for the destruction of their homes and have their safety guaranteed upon return. But the government has shown little interest in addressing these concerns, and no compromise with them has been attempted. Little wonder then that violent clashes have occurred between IDPs and the police, most recently on Wednesday when a protester was killed. A press note issued by the DCO’s office blamed the protesters for having cast the first stone, but that is not the point. The real issue is that thousands of people found themselves caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces, and fled a situation that was not of their making. Their demand for aid is legitimate. If their needs are not addressed, the state runs the risk of adding to the ranks of disillusioned people who turn to arms in order to have their voices heard.
Of course it was clear then as now no help would come IDPs’ way but “Talibs had to be stopped”.
And I am sure even if asked today, Ms Samar ‘Albright’ Minallah would say “The price was worth it!” Of course she will say it with crocodile tears about that “poor girl getting flogged” and wanting us to believe that alone justifies the murder of thousands since and suffering of millions.
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