Look at this picture, this is a child labeled as IDP (internally displaced person) living currently in a make shift camp without proper basic living conditions e.g. food, water, sanitation. He doesn’t have fear in his eyes, even though it could well be that his family died during air raids by his own country’s air force or shelling by army tanks of his nation’s army or if spared by all that then by a drone attack of our biggest ally or may be they survived but this kid still must have seen a lot of carnage and so would have all the other kids of his age around him. We are fighting this war for a some time now and it seems to be in the pipeline for a few more so we are talking about a whole generation being raised in such conditions with atrocities being committed all around them. To me it seems like we are running a Taliban production center ourselves or at least the final product is quite ready to be installed with radicalism or Islamic fundamentalist ideas. But even putting that aside for a moment this does raise some questions, the answers to which all of us don’t know but have every right to demand from god knows who. May be even god wouldn’t know since he sure would be keeping his distance from all this utter stupidity going on in our land; after all that’s also politically correct.
Coming back to the questions that are very basic;
- What is the prize we are after? What are we fighting for, and whatever the desired end is does it justify the means?
- Who are we fighting against? Are we waging a war on our own people to make our country a safer place, that is perplexing and an oxymoron in itself. Who is the enemy, is it an army of people and how many people do we have to kill before we conquer whatever we want to conquer or is it an ideology that we want to tear down through a military solution.
- Who is our leader in this war? The one person who will stand up and say this is where we are and this is where we want to be as a nation and that is why this is a war of necessity, a struggle for survival and people of this nation could follow suit of the leader.
Imran Khan presents a very logical perspective as to why this Army offensive does not necessarily mean an end to this war on terror. Collateral Damage which leaves more civilians dead in its wake will most definitely create more enemies then good.
Credit: The Critic Magazine
After returning from a relief distribution to Mardan in May 2009, I regularly followed up with events concerning the IDPs in N.W.F.P. Regardless of the numerous analyses (and conspiracy theories) emerging in the public discourse about the war and its affects, the priority for me remained in providing assistance to displaced families.
I tried to replicate the great work done by Lahore’s Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP), who have adopted 9 IDP schools in Mardan and Swabi and are looking after the needs of 300 families by collecting donations from Lahore and giving food, medicines and other items through local NGOs of the area. Their families will be assisted after their return to Swat as well.
Besides the obvious difficulty of managing such a program alone, the great distance between Karachi and Mardan, my inability to follow up due to a hectic work schedule with Indus Resource Centre (IRC) and the lack of interest shown by people in Karachi discouraged me to the degree of becoming indifferent to the crisis.
By mid June, the IDPs had taken a backseat in the media networks, whereas the plight of displaced families became a routine matter for people, easily ignored and shrugged aside like another hunger strike by haris in Hyderabad or a drone attack in Waziristan. Friends who were trying to collect donations faced what’s called in the NGO world: ‘donor fatigue’. Everyone had given something from their pocket or bought food items, clothes or beddings and deposited them at one of the stalls in their city. Multinational corporations, wealthy businessman and salaried middle classes at home and abroad had given their share to the ‘Prime Minister’s Special Fund for Relief of Victims of Terrorism’ or to an NGO operating in the affected area. Average Pakistanis thought that maybe our role in this crisis had finished or as I heard from many people, ‘The military operation is succeeding and the crisis shall end soon.’
Foize Nasim interviewed Saira, a 20 years old girl from Mingora, Swat at a training centre set up by PPAF at Jalala Camp.
Saira has 7 sisters and 3 brothers. 3 of her sisters are married, two of whom were living at Jalala with their families. One sister, Farhat was missing with her husband, who had decided to stay back at Mingora. Saira and her family had been calling her cell phone and PTCL line but had no news from her.
Saira had studied till class 6 and was currently enrolled in a religious course for becoming an alima at Mingora. Her father worked as a laborer but her family owned a sweetshop which was blown up last year when the Taliban arrived. She could not say why they had targeted her family’s shop.
Saira mentioned that she had arrived two months ago and they were 13 people living in two tents at Jalala Camp. She said her family had walked from 7 a.m. till 9 p.m. from Mingora when they decided to leave. They reached Batkhail on foot and then rented a car for Rs.12,000 to reach Jalala at 1 a.m. the next day.
Married with 2 kids, Burhan Din is 28 years old and belongs to Amankot in Mingora, Swat. He is pursuing an M. Phil. in Anthropology from Peshawar University. He had been working for a trust called Muslim Aid in Mingora as a hygiene promotion officer for one year before he was forced to leave his home on the 2nd May, 2009. I was given the contact of Burhan, who had tried to go back to his home in Mingora and was keen to share his experience.
Burhan mentioned that the problem of Taliban had begun two years ago and although they were not targeting civilians they were considered a threat by the people of Mingora. Security personnel, government servants and especially the military were their main targets as well as anyone they deemed worthy of punishment such as criminals, drug dealers and political party workers.
The arrival of the army in late April was a severe threat to his life and with the fighting intensifying, he like everyone else in Mingora city, decided to leave. Burhan took his family and reached Takht-Bhai on May 4th and was registered at the Jalala Camp. However, there was no room for people then in the camp. Along with five other families, Burhan, his wife, two children and parents settled at Government Boys Primary Schools Sher Hasan Kilay at Pir Saado in Takht-Bhai.
Recently Mr Ali Anan Qamar, an Assistant Coordination Officer and in-charge of Sheikh Yasin camp was beaten up and publicly humiliated by two officers of Pakistan Army, Maj. Asad Jamal and Lt. Haider marwat of 32nd Cavalry on 8th July 2009. Mr Qamar is a very well educated official of the government and we fear that if such treatment is meted out to high officials of the civil bureaucracy what may be happening to those who are the poor and illiterate in society and who cannot even raise their voices.
A few members of the Peoples Resistance group visited Banares Colony in Karachi, Pakistan and interviewed an IDP refugee Doctor from Swat who shares his thoughts.
I would also like to quote a short section from the email by Abira Ashfaq which had accompanied this video
It seems like one can always accuse people who are opposed to the operation on humanitarian, human rights, and political grounds that we are twisting the words of the interviewees to suit our viewpoint – but never before have I met so many Swatis who were unanimous in the opinion that something has gone/or was always awfully wrong with this military operation – that it has caused immeasurable human suffering – that there are other powerful interests at play -that people have not been allowed safe passage and have had to resort to mountainous and unfriendly terrain and escaped in horrific conditions – almost everyone says that civilians are being targeted and never (purposefully) the Taliban – that they have seen burning bodies of these civilians – and the next day ISPR will report that a taliban commander and several militants were killed. That we are taking ISPR reports in DAWN as authentic is indicative of the lack of media critique and questioning in our state. Understandably there is a lot of outrage in the IDP community against the operation.
Nothing to be proud off but in a survey conducted by Foreign Policy Magazine where they evaluated 177 countries across the world Pakistan was ranked as the 10th most failed state where Somalia was ranked as the most failed state followed by Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Guniea and then Pakistan
“The twins were born as the mother desperately struggled with the pangs of pain, the sound of falling artillery shells, the suffocation of gun powder and the stench of decaying dead bodies. By the time it was morning, the family realized that one of the two babies, had not survived the ordeal of childbirth. The one who had said good bye to life, shared the same bed with the one who was still clinging to it. There was no way that a burial could be held in a curfew. Suddenly there were frantic announcements for a 2 hour curfew break asking the residents to vacate the valley as soon as possible. The family hurriedly packed their humble belongings, picked up the new born and dashed out of their home into one of the many cramped trucks headed towards Mardan. It was some where close to Dargai, that the unfortunate mother realised that she was carrying the dead child, while the living one had been left behind.” This heart breaking story was narrated by a doctor who treated this shattered family at Sahakot. This may just be one glimpse of the untold trauma faced by the millions of fleeing residents of Swat. Little did they know that their suffering and agony would appear diminutive in comparison to what lay ahead in the days to come.
The Rangmaala relief camp located at the very top of Malakand, close to the borders of Swat and Buner, provides the first opportunity that a displaced family can avail as a shelter. The camp set up by the Red Crescent Society of Pakistan houses 4600 persons (702 families) and is by far the most well organized refugee camp. The government has provided various support services, including electricity and cooked food. Each family has received a tent, a mat, a cooler, a fan, a bucket, a kitchen set and a hygiene set. There are common toilets, washing area and a dispensary. From the point of view of the organizers, they have provided all that was needed to make Rangmaala a model camp. There should be no further cause for a complaint. This is the first conceptual mistake made in a relief process, when people become numbers and the relief goods become check-lists. None of the organizers had actually spent even one day in a tent, lined up for food or visited the toilet even once to get a personal experience of what it was like to live in a camp. The temperature inside the tents where the women remain motionlessly seated like toasts in an oven was at least 10 degrees higher than outside. People and buckets queued up three times a day to surrender their dignity in return for a few mugs of the yellow liquid called ‘daal’ and the toilets’ hygiene permitted visits only in situations of unbearable duress.
Report by Wali Haider from ROOTS
Talking to the displaced people in various IDP camps, or in the homes of friends/relatives during my recent visit to Takht Bhai and Charsadda they have taken refuge it is obvious that for them the objectives of the army operation remain unclear. At the same time their suffering as IDPs are manifold.
According to a social worker at a camp in Takht Bhai,, the government is providing two maund of wheat, four kilo dal, five kg cooking oil, five kg sugar, one packet salt, 250 gram of tea to each registered IDP; the rations are provided on a monthly basis.
People have to stand in lines to get their quota; they queue up early in the day and spend the day waiting for their turn. There are few distribution points and sometimes they have to go again the next day.
This is an abridged version that was published on 4th June in The News extracted from a recent report by AIRRA (Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy) based in Peshawar, whose members traveled to the IDP camps for these interviews.
We write here some of the stories the women of Swat told us. They come from Kabbal, Mingawera (Mingora), Qambar, Kanju and other parts of Swat. Some are from Buner and Maidan in Lower Dir. Their lives were affected in many more ways than the lives of their men.
When we entered the large tent a few women looked up and smiled. Some got up and put out their hands to greet us. They seemed surprised that we could converse in the same language. “Sit down. We can’t even offer you tea” said one laughing, “look at us and what we have been reduced to.” Their children were lying on the floor, red because of the heat, tired and listless in the hot air of the fans. The women had been sitting in silence before we went in. We could hear no noise from the tent which was full of about forty women and children. What could they share with each other? Each story was the same as the other. It was a pall of misery and silences that hung over their heads. These women were lucky; they had a common place to come to, out of their tents. In most camps, the women sit in the heat of the tents, not being allowed to go out. They wait for their men to come before they can use the toilets. Their children defecate outside the tents as they cannot take them to the toilets. In some schools, they feed their children first and, at times, do not eat.
Voices of reason and critique are often drowned in the sounds of gunfire and heavy artillery shelling. This current operation ‘Rah-e-Rast’, or what is being termed as a ‘War for Pakistan’s survival’, has resulted in an exodus of almost 3 million people which might just be another number for those who are at the helm of affairs in Islamabad. Dawn’s magazine Herald wrote in its editorial: “Fear of Taliban being just 60 kilometers away from the country’s capital has mobilized the people to support war….But more seriously still, it has ensured that we have willingly put aside the right to ask questions and the right to hold institutions accountable. We are so desperate to get rid of the Taliban that we do not want to raise any questions about how this can be done.” It is time to ask some tough questions.
Herman Goering, the head of German Luftwaffe, remarked at Nuremberg trials: “Of course, the people don’t want war….But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along… Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” We have seen how fear can drive a nation to support an illegal war thousands of miles away in case of Iraq invasion. That is why it is necessary that with our high running emotions against Militants and against their brutal acts of terror, we do not forget the importance of transparency, accountability and self-critique.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has published a very comprehensive report on the IDP situation in NWFP titled A tragedy of errors and Cover-ups:The IDPs and outcome of military actions in FATA and Malakand Division its quite a comprehensive report. I have taken the liberty to extract some critical sections which caught my attention, but I would strongly suggest people to read the entire report at the HRCP Blog
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is convinced that the cost of the insurgency in the Malakand Division has been increased manifold by the shortsightedness and indecisiveness of the non-representative institutions and their policy of appeasing the militants and cohorting with them. While the ongoing military operation had become unavoidable, it was not adopted as a measure of the last resort. Further, the plight of the internally displaced people has been aggravated by lack of planning and coordination by the agencies concerned, and the methods of evacuation of towns/villages and the arrangements for the stranded people have left much to be desired.