Today the people displaced from the swat region of Pakistan due to our war against the militants have exceeded 3 million. This has happened because the militants are holed up in major population centers in Swat and the general public fearing an all out assault by the army has chosen to vacate their homes for fear of their lives.
To understand the plight of these displaced people we have to understand that they did not leave their homes and crops in an orderly and planned manner, they ran for their lives!! So even though being financially stable in their own surroundings they are bereft and drifting on the high seas right now, living in camps eating food donated to them, and basically trying to chalk out some meager form of existence until they can go back home.
Only about 300,000 people have been provided shelter in the camps set up by the UNHCR and Pakistan’s government. This is hardly 10% of the total number of displaced people, the rest are living with their kith and kin who according to their proud pashtun traditions have opened their hearts and homes to them. Pakistan is fighting to provide for these 300,000 people although public and private aid is coming in as well as relief efforts organized by all the NGO’s and social welfare organizations. The international donors conference pledged 543 million usd for the people of Swat on May 21st but has only provided 16% of that amount to the U.N. Currently even the U.N.H.C.R is appealing for more funds so that they can help alleviate suffering in this grave humanitarian crises.
To put things into perspective for us, this is twice the number of people which came from India to Pakistan when this country was created, such is the magnitude of this movement. We have to help these people, we have to provide them with basic food and water and education for their children on an interim basis or they will never forget that the war on the Taliban resulted in them losing their lives and their careers. After reading a lot of analysis and reports on the situation in the camps as well as talking to some friends who went their themselves to distribute aid the following problems seem to be at large.
Nadra Id Cards
It seems as per newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts that the NADRA authorities are charging Rs 50 for replacement cards for those who do not have id cards in the camps as most of the camps are not allowing un registered occupants. Now considering the fact that most of these people did not even get a chance to pack a change of clothing when they ran is it not inhumane of our NADRA authorities to charge them? Frankly its not just inhumane its a disgrace.
The problems relief collectors and workers seem to be facing are being intensified by the fact that people who were more than willing to give for the earthquake victims are not so generous anymore. This is because most of us still claim that since the army is responsible for their displacement they should provide for the people of Swat. I beg to differ and ask the question, who’s army is it? The army of Pakistan is not some individual and isolated organization separate from our state, it is comprised of sons, husbands and fathers of the Pakistani nation who are laying their lives down for our security, so instead of blaming them it is up to us the citizens of Pakistan to lend a hand. Its time we came to our senses, these people could be us. Also of note is the fact that there are up to 65000 plus pregnant women in the camps and there is urgent need for doctors, para medical staff and gynecologists. We must all do what we can to help our brothers and sisters so please do not hesitate to volunteer or donate.
The infiltration issue
Yes this is a serious problem as well. Without proper screening and as per reports on the BBC of militants now shaving beards to melt away we have to be able to screen the people coming through these camps to our cities. Although stopping them from entering our cities does cause emotional trauma but we have to also understand that every city of Pakistan can only absorb so much, so rehabilitating them in the camps and making sure they can return to their homes as quick as possible should be the governments focus. the recent Lahore incident is enough proof that all of Pakistan’s urban centers are under threat.
Religious ulema & parties
It is shocking, nay horrifying to see that most of our local religious parties have still adopted a position of neutrality for the militants. At one end the JUI is collecting relief goods for the displaced people and on the other end is condemning the war on the Taliban and urging the population of our urban areas to protest against it. Are they insane? Do they not realize that the displacement has not been caused by the army but by their talib brothers who refused to honor any accord, agreement or constitution? What are they suggesting that we all turn our heads down and stick them in the sand and the Talibs will go away? Nay we have already done that with the “peace deals” and it did not work. Although we must care for the displaced people of Swat under no circumstances should such parties be allowed to influence our populace.
Although we all know that the government of our country is stretched to the wire as it is, there are some facilities not available in the camps which need to be there. For example PTCL has been kind enough to provide free long distance dialing stations in most UNHCR camps but can a private bank not take some initiative and install a small ATM plus cash withdrawel counter for many of these refugees are financially stable and would like the facility to be able to withdraw money to facilitate their interim displaced lives without having to beg for food. We must remember that although displaced these people are not street urchins and must not be humiliated because of this war at any cost.
As the army has managed to clear most of the areas previously occupied by the militants it is high time that at least the people of these areas are allowed to go back home. Even if it is step by step the process of returning home for these people must begin as they not only have houses and crops at harvest time to care for but most of them have running businesses they must see to, normalcy must be restored to their lives and pronto.
Hopefully as indicated by ISPR and our President some of these people can start going back to their homes soon. I hope and pray this happens sooner than later as they have suffered enough for the rest of us. I salute the spirit of sacrifice in each and every one of the displaced people of Swat.
I also urge my international & local readers to chip in via the widget to the right of this post, I promise every penny of your donation will go towards this cause.