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