Plight of the IDPs

Thee bur­den and pain of the dis­placed peo­ple of North Waziris­tan must be shared by the rest of the coun­try.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Mahrukh A. Mughal The writer con­trib­utes ar­ti­cles on top­ics of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est and also ap­pears on TV talk shows.

The peo­ple of Pak­istan should come for­ward to share the pain of the dis­placed peo­ple of North Waziris­tan.

The Pak­istan Army has launched a com­pre­hen­sive op­er­a­tion against the ter­ror­ists holed up in the moun­tains of North Waziris­tan. The of­fen­sive was given the code name of Op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb af­ter a sword of the same name used by Prophet Mo­ham­mad (PBUH) in one of his bat­tles. The op­er­a­tion is be­ing pro­jected as the be­gin­ning of the end of ter­ror­ism in Pak­istan.

The coun­try has suf­fered ter­ri­ble losses, both in men and ma­te­rial, at the hands of mil­i­tants who have been ter­ror­iz­ing the peo­ple of Pak­istan for over a decade. The armed forces have been tasked with elim­i­nat­ing mil­i­tants who have killed thou­sands of Pak­ista­nis, civil­ians and sol­diers, de­stroyed mosques, shrines and schools, at­tacked gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions and kid­napped hun­dreds of peo­ple for ran­som. It is for th­ese rea­sons that a vic­tory against ter­ror­ists is cru­cial be­cause if this op­er­a­tion fails, Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity prob­lems will in­crease man­i­fold.

So far, the mea­sures taken by the armed forces have been ap­pre­ci­ated by na­tional and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers. One of the chal­lenges faced by the army is to en­sure that the ter­ror­ists do not flee their sanc­tu­ar­ies through the var­i­ous routes that con­nect the tribal ar­eas with the rest of the coun­try. It has also been re­ported that many mil­i­tants tried to flee the ar­eas in dis­guise of dis­placed peo­ple who were leav­ing the op­er­a­tion-af­fected ar­eas in hordes. The es­cap­ing mil­i­tants were spot­ted and ar­rested by the se­cu­rity agen­cies at the check­points made on the routes lead­ing from North Waziris­tan to Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa. It is also feared that a large num­ber of mil­i­tants had left North Waziris­tan be­fore the launch of the op­er­a­tion and fled to Afghanistan.

The other im­por­tant chal­lenge for the state is to take care of the dis­placed per­sons who have taken refuge in KP. The num­ber of IDPs has crossed 800,000 and the fig­ure is in­creas­ing with time. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments as well as the peo­ple of Pak­istan to help th­ese peo­ple in their time of hard­ship. Oth­er­wise, if not han­dled prop­erly, the humanitarian cri­sis can fur­ther worsen.

Sadly, the gov­ern­ment has not done proper plan­ning to en­sure a smooth re­lo­ca­tion of IDPs, even though it had dealt with a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in the past dur­ing the Swat op­er­a­tion. Hardly any po­lit­i­cal party of Pak­istan came for­ward to al­le­vi­ate their suf­fer­ings. The peo­ple of North Waziris­tan have be­come refugees in their own coun­try. They are liv­ing

in ex­cru­ci­at­ing cir­cum­stances in the camps. The gov­ern­ment an­nounced cash hand­outs of Rs.7,000 or a food bas­ket worth Rs.6,000 for ev­ery dis­placed fam­ily with an av­er­age size of 13. How­ever, this ges­ture went in vain as re­ports emerged that food and other items re­served for the IDPs was be­ing sold in the lo­cal mar­kets.

The worst af­fected vic­tims of this sit­u­a­tion are women. Their mis­eries have in­creased as they are the women who hardly stepped out­side their homes in their vil­lages. Now, they can be seen stand­ing in long queues, wait­ing for their turn to re­ceive food. The prob­lems of th­ese tribal women mul­ti­ply due to lack of fe­male paramed­i­cal staff at the camps. Many women can’t re­ceive food and aid be­cause they do not have NICs.

The threat of at­tacks by the TTP also looms large as even be­fore the launch of the op­er­a­tion, the TTP had dis­trib­uted pam­phlets among the res­i­dents of North Waziris­tan, for­bid­ding them to live in IDP camps since the Tal­iban deemed it “im­mod­est and against the teach­ings of Is­lam.” The pam­phlets also in­structed peo­ple not to ac­cept the aid of­fered by the state, par­tic­u­larly by the army.

The re­sponse of the prov­inces has been dis­ap­point­ing too. As a large num­ber of dis­placed per­sons tried to mi­grate to other parts of the coun­try, the three prov­inces – Sindh, Pun­jab and Balochis­tan – re­port­edly sealed their bor­ders, ban­ning the en­try of IDPs into their ter­ri­to­ries. The ini­tial re­ac­tion of the gov­ern­ment of Khy­ber Pakhthunwa was dis­cour­ag­ing as well. It blamed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for not tak­ing the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment into con­fi­dence re­gard­ing the op­er­a­tion. How­ever, it changed its ap­proach soon and has been try­ing to fa­cil­i­tate the IDPs in this time of cri­sis.

It is time the gov­ern­ment and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties re­al­ized their re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards the IDPs and sup­ported them in the same way as they are sup­port­ing the armed forces. The gov­ern­ment’s dream of win­ning the war against ter­ror­ism will re­main elu­sive un­less it wins the hearts and minds of the peo­ple of the tribal ar­eas. Vic­tory can’t be achieved un­less the peo­ple of Pak­istan em­brace the IDPs with the val­ues of hu­man­ism, love, plu­ral­ity and tol­er­ance. It is time to share their bur­den and feel their pain as the peo­ple of North Waziris­tan have made in­nu­mer­able sac­ri­fices for the sake of the sovereignty of Pak­istan.

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