For IDPs, the light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train coming their way

Published: July 7, 2014
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An internally displaced Pakistani girl, fleeing a military operation against Taliban militants in the North Waziristan tribal agency, looks on at a makeshift refugee camp in Bannu on June 28, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

An internally displaced Pakistani girl, fleeing a military operation against Taliban militants in the North Waziristan tribal agency, looks on at a makeshift refugee camp in Bannu on June 28, 2014. PHOTO: AFP Internally displaced Pakistani children fill their buckets with water at a makeshift refugee camp in Bannu. PHOTO: AFP

The much-awaited operation to clean the north western part of the country has finally started. It will hopefully rid us of the disease that has infected our country and as a result, the locals will hopefully be able to live without the constant fear of militants and hovering drones.

However, due to the intensity of the operation, residents have been forced to leave their homes and live as refugees in camps in their own country; camps that are merely making ends meet for them. Hussein Khan, once a resident of Mir Ali in North Waziristan and now living in the Bannu refugee camp with his family for the past one week, says,

“Conditions are completely pathetic here. There is no electricity in most parts of the camp, no drinking water and no other basic facility. We are lying here like orphans.”

Imagine living a life like that, especially during Ramazan while you’re fasting. We complain about getting through the day when we’re fasting while sitting in air-conditioned rooms and in the comfort of our homes. We know a feast awaits us at Maghrib and that first sip of cold water seems like heaven. Now imagine their day and their ‘feast’.

The future of these refugees seems dim and terrifying with no way out of their worsening standard of living. The questions once pondered over are more terrifying.

Will these refugees be offered any compensation for all the hardships they had to go through?

Will they be offered any way of livelihood to ensure that they don’t fall prey to becoming easy recruits for the militants again?

However, the positive factor that arises from such situations is the commitment and willingness of fellow Pakistanis who are more than ready to help the ones affected by such a calamity. Aid is pouring in locally and internationally through different platforms.

Several political parties, provincial ministers and governments, Pakistan Army officials, prominent businessmen like Malik Riaz and lawmakers have donated their month’s salaries towards the refugee funds.

Jibran Nasir, who was standing as an independent candidate in the 2013 elections from Karachi, has been very forthcoming. He should be appreciated for raising money through different means to prepare more than one thousand packages containing enough edibles to feed an average family for a month.

This heart-warming gesture by fellow countrymen has truly proved that we are there for our people when the need arises. Come one, come all, we are together in this war.

Internationally, the United States has extended an assistance of $31 million, while the government of United Arab Emirates (UAE) has released $20.5 million for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan on humanitarian grounds. In this regard,there should be transparency and an accountability system to make sure it reaches the deserving and not the pockets of the corrupt officials. In a report on US aid to Pakistan, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) cited fraud, lack of transparency and accountability as some of the biggest obstacles in the implementation of US aid to Pakistan.

It is, therefore, disturbing and a true mystery as to where this massive aid is being invested as looking at the dilapidated refugee camps with their lack of proper sanitary facilities and lack of basic necessities, it clearly isn’t directed towards the rehabilitation of the refugees. The first priority of the government should be to do anything and everything for these people. A certain standard needs to be maintained in camps, adequate health care systems need to be in place and they should be provided with basic necessities. If even a single person dies due to causes that could have been prevented if the government had done its part, the government alone should, and will, be held responsible.

These are honourable families who lived respectable lives and had to sacrifice everything for the operation. It is then our moral responsibility to treat them with the honour and respect they rightfully deserve and not treat them like refugees from another country. These are our own people.

But the one question that lingers around in everyone’s mind is that what happens to these IDPs once the operation is complete?

Will they be offered any jobs or employment opportunities so that they don’t go down that road again and become easy recruits for the militants just to feed their families?

Will there be any projects for the development of these bombed areas that was once their home, their town, where their kids would play on the streets?

If not, then who can guarantee that such an operation will not be required again once the disease of terrorism contaminates again?

The absence of infrastructure makes one wonder if he has travelled back in time to the 50s. There is a noticeable lack of basic necessities like proper hospitals and enough doctors. If that area is a victim of such criminal negligence when it comes to making an investment towards the betterment of the people there, the government has no reason to look to them for support or admiration.

Such negligence is not only limited to the north western areas of the country. The people of Balochistan still wonder if they will ever be treated like the rest of the Pakistanis, and if they will ever see development in their area. The difference is that they have waited for far too long to see a change in the government’s attitude towards them and have no expectations from the government anymore.

People from interior parts of Sindh are also faced with similar problems. It is of utter shame that hundreds die of famine and are treated as people living in some African country. Their continuous tolerance and patience should be lauded for expecting the government to change and treat them like humans.

Simply put, the incumbent government of Pakistan does not know how to prioritise. It is the direction in which the leadership is moving that matters; it is the priorities that they have set that matters; it is the management of limited resources that matters.

They decided to invest valuable capital to purchase drone cameras for monitoring the construction of the metro bus project while people dying from famine and severe poverty in other parts of the country are not worthy of their attention. That same money could have been used to provide substantial food and necessities for these people in order to save their lives but no, our government just went ahead and bought helicams. Clearly, the value of human lives isn’t worth much in their eyes.

The government spends millions of dollars on foreign tours and luxuries. This is the tax payer’s money that they’re splurging. This money is earned by you and me, and it is high time that it should be held accountable for their actions.

The operation might be completed but if the people of these areas continue to be neglected and deprived of their elementary rights while people in other parts of the country enjoy a lavish life, we cannot expect anything less than a massive rebellion from those affected. They will certainly react out of sheer frustration. It is about time we realise the harsh reality and give everyone equal rights.

Development isn’t discouraged. But it should be done sensibly and with balance. If it isn’t done, then these neglected people will become easy recruits for powers that want to destabilise the peace of this country. If history repeats itself, then we are trapped in a vicious cycle that will plunge this country into further poverty and calamity from which escape would be difficult.

Waqar Ahmed

Waqar Ahmed

The author is a certified ethical hacker and Bug Bounty Hunter. He has been working as an Information Security Consultant for five years. He blogs at waqarahmedfasihi.wordpress.com/ . He tweets @waqarfasihi (twitter.com/waqarfasihi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Muhammad Qazi

    brilliant brother ! very true and very well written.Recommend

  • Shoeb

    yo waka!!

    Honestly got surprised, good readRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    These people are the same ones who supported and sheltered the terrorists that our brave soldiers are fighting. If they had just kicked out the Taliban instead of sheltering them they will not be IDP’s now.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    What if I told you the Punjab Government is considering giving laptops to IDPs? http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/07/07/national/now-idps-will-also-get-laptops/
    Nevertheless, very nice blog Waqar bhai!Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Yeah, contact me if can even kick out a mobile snatcher with only a 9 mm gun without giving away your iPhone. Else, I’ll take it that you fund and shelter mobile snatchers in the city.Recommend

  • Amir

    I think you are missing the point here. It is about providing health care and food to the women and children. If you think they should be neglected and they all are supporters of the terrorist even thou they left their homes then I am afraid that is the same indifferent to human lives sort of mentality that the terrorists have. Recommend

  • Xain

    Unfortunately the people of Karachi have been doing the same for so long… Minimum of 10 people are killed on daily basis here in Karachi… so is there going to be operation in Karachi??? :(Recommend