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Pakistan: Handling The Return Of Refugees

The Government of Pakistan has finally announced a schedule for the people displaced due to the military operations in the Swat Valley outlining their return to home. The plan chalked out by the Special Services Group (SSG) includes a four phased return home program.

Swat Refugees, Image courtesy Dr. Awab Alvi (teeth.com.pk/blog)

Swat refugees, Image courtesy Dr. Awab Alvi (teeth.com.pk/blog)

The International Displacement Monitoring Center  (IDMC) states that over 3 million people have been displaced during the Swat crisis. After two months of nightmares they will finally be returning to their home. But the question remains: are they feeling hopeful or still in fear of their security?

Faris Karim at Teeth Maestro took an interview with a displaced person to get the insight:

I spoke with Burhan on Saturday July 18, 2009. He was about to leave for his home and was delighted at going back. He did share the fear of what lay in the future but was willing to face any challenge at his own home, with his own efforts rather than living as a refugee.

This is what Sarfaraz narrated, followed by a few questions I asked him: Is it possible for you to go back right now?

It’s really not possible to go back right now but I have another fear. What if we return next month and then those people who are responsible for all this trouble arise again? Then is this crisis going to return again? Are we going to be displaced again? Let me tell you that to move back and forth like this with your family is worst than death! I had put my wife and kids in a car but walked all the way from Saidu Sharif to Malakand on foot, nearly 65 kilometers.

Kalsoom Lakhani at CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan provides an in depth analysis:

It is not that the millions displaced do not want to return home. In fact, many have expressed their desire to travel back to their towns as soon as possible. Their caution, therefore, seems to be based on a lack of trust in the government to ensure services and security, as well as an overall fatigue from living with host families or in camps.

Saesneg at Rozanama-Bach paints the ordeals these people had to live through on a post titled  ‘Smile, you are an IDP':

Picture yourself: you’ve been forced out of your home, you’re transported to a camp of tents with no running water or proper sanitation, you have no livelihood and are reliant, whatever your previous occupation, on the handouts of the state or foreign aid agencies.

Living on handouts, image courtesy Dr. Awab Alvi (teeth.com.pk/blog)

Living on handouts, image courtesy Dr. Awab Alvi (teeth.com.pk/blog)

He then talks about the fears faced by IDPs along with other issues:

The Daily Times spoke to a number of IDPs saying they would stay back – either because military operations continued, or they had no money at home.

The bus driver and their government escort said it was too dangerous to make the final leg of the journey, with soldiers still in battle with the Taliban.

The Government has finalized the return of these refugees leaving many questions unanswered. Surely a lot more needs to be done to ensure their safety and for their rehabilitation and settlement. In my own blog I have discussed these issues:

Its apparent that the Government needs to lay down a long term strategy for rehabilitation of the displaced people. With the increasing number of protests in the refugee camps and prevailing uncertainties among people, this can no longer be avoided.

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