Pakistan: Plight of IDPs

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Dawn Editorial

One of the most worrisome aspects of the ongoing war on terror has been the displacement of large sections of the population in the NWFP and the tribal areas surrounding the province.

Since mid-2009, when the Pakistan Army launched a military operation in Swat, the conflict has spread to Fata sparking a humanitarian crisis. Although there is uncertainty about the actual number of internally displaced persons, the UN puts the figure at 2.3 million. Due to a complicated process of documentation, the ineptitude of the official machinery, alleged corruption and the inability of the displaced to cope with the demands of officialdom, not all IDPs have been registered. True, many IDPs, especially those from Swat, have returned home as conditions have improved. But there are still several who continue to live in appalling conditions as refugees. They can hardly be blamed for not going back - their homes have been destroyed in the fighting and they have no place to go. Many have yet to be paid compensation that could help them pick up the pieces and begin their lives again. If the UN's assessment that the IDPs' programme is generously funded is correct then it is a pity that precious resources should have been mismanaged, increasing human misery.

While this issue must be seriously addressed and arrangements made for the return of the IDPs to their towns and villages, a new problem is lurking on the horizon. The continuing military operation is expected to uproot many more people in the tribal areas. Although the element of surprise is an essential part of military strategy, the failure of the government to plan properly for its fallout is deplorable. Constructing shelters for IDPs before any mass transfer of population takes place and arranging for possible evacuation in a planned manner does not betray any military secrets.

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