The military has finally launched the much-anticipated operation in South Waziristan against the Taliban. After a series of terrorist attacks across the country the government had announced that the operation was inevitable. The operation has since triggered a wave of retaliations by Taliban and has forced over 120,000 locals to flee from their houses. Maria Sultan at Pak Spectator sheds a light on the internally displaced people of Waziristan:
On foot, these internally displaced people (IDP) of South Waziristan have reached to D.I. Khan after traveling for hundreds of miles and their plight is very dismal. Rudimentary camps have been established in D.I Khan area, but these camps don’t have enough food, medicine and shelter and drinking water. Still the special support group officials are not in these areas and a human tragedy is in making.
Meanwhile a report of Dawn highlights the ill-treatment of locals fleeing from the battlefield. Most of these people are reportedly facing discrimination and don't seem much hopeful about the ongoing offensive.
Hina Safdar at Chowrangi is hopeful that the government would take immediate steps in preventing a refugee crisis.
Refugees fled to Dera Ismail Khan and Tank, the two major towns in North-West Frontier Province on the border of South Waziristan. Aid workers said humanitarian access to the refugees remains the key challenge for the government given the area’s volatile security environment. The government denies there is any refugee crisis, saying it had made arrangements for the displaced, including a system to provide them with cash support and food items. It wasn’t feasible to set up camps, in part because of concerns about tribal violence because of traditional rivalry. The displaced are mostly staying with relatives or clansmen(..)I hope that Pakistan army will once again succeed and nip the evil forever so that we would not witness any refugee crisis again.
The crisis in Waziristan appears to be quite different from that of the Swat Valley region. Regardless of the number of people displaced the most important factor remains is the handling and keeping checks on people to avoid Taliban infiltration in the camps. However with reports of agitations from the locals and lack of proper camps keeping track seems extremely difficult.
In a post titled “Questions to ask before South Waziristan Battle” at Pakspectator , Altaf Khan gives voice to the concerns of the majority.
- Is the army prepared, in terms of equipment, training and tactics, for the kind of guerrilla warfare that it is likely to come up with?
- How the local population will be differentiated with the terrorists, especially how the Mehsud tribe will be segregated from the Mehsud militants?
These remain few of the many questions in the mind of the most as the battle continues. Although the people appear to be supportive of the offensive the concerns about the handling of IDPs and how to prevent a humanitarian crisis linger on. In my own blog I raised concerns and posted an analysis about the ongoing situation and the problems that need to be tackled:
The fact is, the attitude of the authorities and the public at large towards the Mehsuds is one of caution and fear more than sympathy and concern. Such prejudice only bolsters the Taliban agenda, fueling recruitment from among Mehsud ranks. But the war cannot be won if the Waziristan locals show indifference towards the need for combating Taliban and their infrastructure. Without winning the hearts of the people, the military’s victory will only be temporary. If we want this to be a ‘decisive blow,’ we have to overcome our insecurities and let sympathy overcome prejudice.Dire situations such as these require us to rise as a nation. Let us extend our support to the IDPs of Waziristan, regardless of their past and their support for the Taliban. This is our chance to help our people break free from the shackles of the Taliban. Let’s take the path of salvation together.