Nov 12, 2009

Waziristan's IDPs

By Basil Nabi Malik

One thing that remains undisputed Pakistan is the heart-wrenching difficulties and problems that the IDPs of these areas are facing, and will further have to face until Waziristan is cleared of the militants. It has been noted by many that the response to the IDP's of Waziristan has definitely not been as impressive as that of the overwhelming response given to those of Malakand.

One of the reasons may be that most official sources indicate that the suicide bombers are coming from areas in Waziristan and, in addition to this, the currently precarious security situation as a result of the numerous suicide bombings and attacks has left many residents hesitant in taking in strangers, especially those with the last name "Mehsud."

The administration in Bannu is rumoured to have instructed people, in the name of security, not to rent out any vacant place to the IDPs. Other than that, it has been reported that migrants from Waziristan have been complaining that locals in areas such as Dera Ismail Khan are refusing to assist them, if not showing outright hostility due to the misperception that all those arriving from those areas are involved in terrorist activities. The local police have also reportedly been given orders to keep an eye on those arriving in the settled areas, as many are believed to be "supporters of the Taliban."

Another reason for the less-than-welcoming environment is that perhaps people have less of a definite connection and understanding of the region and people of Waziristan. Whereas in Swat there was a great deal of people-to-people contact between the locals and people from other parts of the country due to tourism and similar customs, laws and traditions, this was not the case in Waziristan.

There is still much that we can. Firstly, even if journalists have no access to the Waziristan region, they can still cover the human face of the war on terror by covering the IDP camps and the problems arising over there extensively. It is the job of the media and, dare I say the government, to show the tribesman in their true light as the patriots that they have always been.

Coupled with this, the government of Pakistan must play its role in not only addressing the issues of the IDPs, but bringing about general awareness within the larger community about the needs of these displaced Pakistanis and how people can help them in their individual and collective capacities. At the moment the government seems content in towing the line that the tribesmen don't need government help because they are fiercely independent and would prefer to live with host families in accordance with their traditions.

However, the government cannot escape fulfilling its obligations by citing lack of resources or tribal customs as reasons for not being as proactive as it should be. Even if the tribesmen prefer to stay with host families, the government must ensure that they have a place to stay and the basic necessities, irrespective of how many of them avail that facility at any given time. If the government acts responsibly, the tribesmen who aren't willing to stay with host families will have a place to go; and if they instead stay with a host family, at least the government would be ready for any future eventuality that may arise due to the unseemly and unpredictable environment persisting at the moment.

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