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A Farewell to Arms
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By: Naveed Ahmed
My Visit of IDP’s Camps in Mardan and Malakand Division (05-07 June, 2009)
On Friday mid-night June 5, 2009 , I left for a couple of days visit of Mardan with my senior colleague Mr. Kashif to visit the local office of our partner NGO Kawish Welfare Trust (www.kawish-welfare-trust.org) regional office. The office was established last month for the relief of IDP’s of Swat, Mangora, Dir and also from other war affected areas. Our agenda was to train the local Team members of KWT about administration skills and also the analysis of established IDP’s camps in Mardan city. Mardan has become the main outride of more than couple of two million IDP’s.
We reached there in early morning and our project manager came to receive at Daewoo Bus Station on Swat road Mardan in a non custom paid Toyota Corolla. In recent crisis the government of NWFP has allowed these smuggled cars to move inside the NWFP. We reached at our office which was situated at very serene place named Norozabad hardly 3 km before Malakand (Shergarh) on Swat / Malakand road. The army has extended their operation in Malakand and a curfew was imposed there on Sunday after two top leaders of the defunct Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi and a junior army officer were killed and five security personnel injured in a bomb-and-gun attack near Mehrdey chowk in the Malakand region hardly 8 km away from our Norozabad site office early on Saturday morning.
The TNSM’s deputy chief, Maulana Mohammad Alam, and spokesman Amir Izzat were arrested on Thursday and were being transported along with other prisoners in a military convoy to Peshawar from a Malakand fort. When the convoy reached Mehrdey chowk, situated between Dargai and Skhakot areas, a remote-controlled device went off, ripping through the vehicle carrying the two TNSM leaders. The explosion was followed by gunfire. The TNSM leaders and a junior commissioned were killed as a result of an IED exploding on the side of the road. IED incidents in the area take place on a daily basis.
After this incident on Sunday the Mangora curfew was extended to Shergarh near our office and three innocent citizens were killed by army for violating the curfew.
We visited most of the IDP’s camps situated in Mardan city including Labour Colony of Rehman Cotton Mills (Takht Bhai), Pathy Kalan Camps (families accommodated in a big campus of four schools), Sheikh Shehzad Camp, Sheikh Yasin Camp, Ganji Camp, Shah Rasool Camp, Adnan Kaka Khel Camp, Toroo Camp (around 300 families staying in schools of Toroo Village situated 15 km off Malakan / Swat Road), Jalala Camp in Takht Bhai, camps in schools and also luckily we had a chance to view the largest camp of IDP’s in Swabi from Motorway coming back to Islamabad.
I have found the poor, illiterate and feeble IDP’s in a very worst situation and I had this feeling that government is not intending to prolong their stay since the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan has already warned that humanitarian efforts for internally displaced people would have to be scaled down if the international community does not come up with immediate and generous financial assistance. The office had appealed for $543 million to meet urgent needs of the displaced people. But until today it had received only 22 per cent of the amount and the humanitarian efforts would be facing severe problems in a couple of weeks if more money was not received. Earlier OCHA has been actively pursuing countries through the office of the UN secretary general for timely delivery of financial assistance. On the eve of an international donor conference organized by the government of Pakistan for rehabilitation of the IDPs, the OCHA appealed for funds to sustain ongoing humanitarian efforts in the NWFP. The platform of the EU conference will also be used for rapid and generous response for sustaining humanitarian efforts for the people uprooted from their areas.
We have also found some lapses and problems in the registration process of IDP’s. The UNHCR said that registration process was progressing with a few exceptions where some IDPs tried to register themselves more than once.
I found one incident where a woman had registered herself 14 times at different places. However, with the help of Nadra, such cases could be easily detected. World Food Program has set up a food bank between Peshawar and Nowshehra where people can deposit food for IDP’s.
The UNFPA has a main concern of 69,000 pregnant women. About 6,000 of them would be giving birth in coming month and 900 would need pregnancy related surgeries. Keeping in view this immediate requirement KWT has established a Maternity Home in Takht Bhai (Mardan) with an estimate of facilitating more than 20,000 families. In government sector, with the help of the ministry of population welfare, 15 mobile units have been set up to meet needs related to reproductive health of women.
The call of the day in swat camps is “A Farewell to Arms”. I found everbody in IDP’s camp saying ‘NO’ to Taliban. I would strongly recommend to federal government of Pakistan to establish their writ in Tribal Areas and bring all these PATA and FATA based tribal areas in the mainstream. The absence of government’s writ and the failure of Nizam-e-Adl regulation in Swat due to the violations from the Taliban side have triggered a popular military operation in the Malakand Agency. Still, the Pakistan Army is enjoying the full backing of the people and the media, but they need to complete this operation as soon as possible and the delay and the suspension would only wear out this support, resulting in much more worst reactions than the Lal Masjid. In the second phase government should bring all these tribal areas in the main stream and should do everything to eliminate the poverty and illiteracy from tribal areas and make everybody saying no to militancy and no to establishment of a state within a state.
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