Dec 14, 2009

Task ahead

Benefits of military operation will not be utilised until terror victims are given hope of a future

By Dr Noman Ahmed

The acts of terror have caused thousands of deaths, left thousands maimed and hundreds of thousands affected in many ways. The wave of terrorism has caused loss of bread earners in extended families, and has also resulted in the destruction of houses and many livelihoods.

Many school-going children have been forced to discontinue their education due to high costs. Several people had to abandon their house as they could not afford house rent. Those who suffered serious injuries or lost a limb are also at the receiving end. In this situation, an effective policy and response is needed to rehabilitate the affected communities socially, economically and psychologically. The districts and frontier regions that have taken the brunt of the war on terror in the NWFP can become priority locations followed by other affected areas. Many initiatives are needed to evolve a potent and effective programme with a worthwhile outreach.

The foremost requirement is the preparation of an accurate database of affected population. A review of media reports on damages caused by terrorism can be a starting point. Thanks to the multiple sources of print and electronic media, an effective premise for baseline information can be prepared to devise a crash strategy for swift documentation of individuals. The assignment shall demand creation of multiple layers of information around major variables, including household characteristics, minors, original places of residence, changes in the family status and related vulnerabilities.

This baseline information must be made a basis for developing need-based incentives for the target population. For instance, in places where widows and orphans are in large numbers, emphasis must be laid on skill development amongst womenfolk to earn a decent living. The contours of the rehabilitation programme need to take into account cultural and religious sensitivities associated with various contexts. Orphans can be supported in a number of ways. Concepts of gender-based orphanages under the supervision of trained managers may be promoted. There are many non-governmental organisations and welfare agencies that have significant experience.

Creation of opportunities for quality education and people's protection is a foremost requirement. Incidents have shown that terrorists consider modern education as their biggest enemy. Hundreds of school buildings have been partly or completely destroyed whereas many school teachers have been murdered in cold blood. It is obvious that the spread of modern education makes the most tenacious defense-line against terrorism. A multi-pronged strategy is desired in the prevailing circumstances.

Educational institutions must become recipients of generous governmental subsidy. Public schools and colleges must be reconstructed after fulfilling the security pre-requisites. Educational activities may be revived with assistance from the local communities and reinforcement from governmental institutions. There are many non-governmental outfits that have credible record and experience in managing formal education. The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is one example. It has begun its operations in NWFP during 2008. It will be most useful if TCF and similar well initiated institutions are assisted to take up the task of setting up schools in terror hit locations.

These networks can also be entrusted with the responsibility of teachers training. For involving local communities, endowments may be created under the trusteeship of area elders after careful scrutiny. The allies in the war on terror can be called in for help on this count. Exclusive institutions can be setup with active assistance and collaboration of United States Educational Foundation, British Council and similar bodies after proper preparation and effective negotiation for collaboration. Friendly Muslim countries may also be invited to contribute in this social rebuilding task.

It may be noted that the benefits of military operation will not be fully utilised until and unless the affectees of terror are given hope of a bright future. This feat cannot be achieved without imparting quality education.

Threats and consequences of terrorism can be turned into opportunities of action in some sectors. Healthcare is an example. Public sector healthcare facilities have performed exceptionally well in minimising the agonies and trauma of such heinous acts, their meager resources and capacities notwithstanding. However, many projects can be launched. Monetary and insurance incentives must be extended to those medical practitioners and paramedical staff who have served under most adverse circumstances.

Certain units and fields of specialisation must be bolstered. Burns units and trauma care are two assorted mentions. Blast victims suffer from burn injuries of very serious nature. In many cases, other complications evolve due to limited facilities. Public healthcare institutions must be bolstered to develop and equip such facilities on an emergency basis. A district wise strategy must be worked out to consolidate the district headquarters hospitals in terror affected areas.

Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshehra, Dera Ismail Khan and other districts in NWFP can be considered for immediate action. Psychological assistance to mitigate the effects of trauma is also an important domain of action. Needless to say, disillusioned youth and unattended destitute can become instant fodder for the nefarious designs of terror planners.

There are many social and economic options that are already available. Nationwide initiatives such as Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) and micro finance institutions have many support options that can extend help to different sub-groups in the target locations. It will increase efficiency and reduce the possibilities of duplication of efforts. It is time to act and minimise the sufferings of those who bore them to the maximum.

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