Internally Displaced People in Pakistan

Updates about IDPs from FATA, Swat, Dir and Buner

Hathian IDP Camps

Posted by Administrator on May 12, 2009

Hathian IDP Camps

On May 12, I accompanied three friends (with significant relief and recovery work experience from the October 2005 earthquake) to the Hathian IDP camps. We were joined by a tribesman from Mohmand, who’s settled in the Punjab, but is fluent with both the area, and the language (Pushto).

Hathian is almost at the foot of the Malakand Division. Its proximity to Malakand means that the less privileged IDPs set up “camp”—due to their lack of resources (both social and fiscal).

To get there, we drove out of Islamabad, up the motorway till we hit Mardan. We then took Malakand Road to Sher Garh, and from there, we hit Hathian. Total driving time was about three and a half hours (3.5). Traffic was not too bad in the afternoon, but as dusk neared it got progressively worse in Mardan.

On May 8th, when the IDPs began to descend upon the area, all of which falls under the Commissioner Mardan, the government announced the closure of schools, and the use of school buildings to shelter the IDPs.

In Hathian, four such schools are under use. The volunteers that have taken charge, and are managing things suggested numbers that ranged from 800 to 1000 families. Our own estimates are around 450 to 600 families.

In total, with average family size between 5.5 and 7, we estimate a total IDP population, in the four school buildings alone, to be anywhere between 2500 to 4200.

The government’s level of support—federal, provincial or district—is limited to the provision of the school building. Volunteers informed us that the Commissioner had announced on the morning of May 12, that all responsibility for the well-being of school property, including furniture, lay with the principals of the schools.

The provincial department for social welfare is leading the registration process, but are almost entirely dependent on the volunteers.

The local government is in disarray, although both the UCs and the district government have put together small ration packages for the affectees.

The access to those packages is controlled by vouchers available from the district government.

Even when affectees get the vouchers (not easy, given total unfamiliarity with the area), voucher-holders have to spend all day standing in line to get the packages.

Bottom-line on government is that food, medicine and education facilities are nowhere to be found.

So who is taking care of these people?

Hathian’s civil society, or as they kept saying, “self-help”. The power and resilience of Pakistan’s community networks have always left me gasping for breath. They did so again in Hathian. Repeated queries about what will happen to the daily wages, or incomes of the volunteers, who seem to be possessed by a spirit of giving, all lead to the same response: “Tomorrow, we could be the ones in need of help!”.

In one school, two doctors are on-call for roughly 20 hours a day in total. Both are under 40, both are volunteers, and neither has any plans of abandoning their new found Swati friends.

The makeup of the IDPs that we met was almost entirely from Swat. Within Swat, a large variety of towns were represented. When we saw teenagers looking on, it was hard not to think that many of Pakistan’s more privileged may have seen these kids years ago, on summer excursions to Kalaam, to Ushu, to Saidu Sharif and to Mingora.

Just because communities work, and society is not completely broken—and indeed, quite robustly intact, doesn’t mean all is well.

Cooked food is a luxury in these camps. So are bedsheets, mattresses, pillows, and soap. Suhaib Kiani, Hassan Sami and Taimur Khan accompanied me to the camp. All four of us, and others will continue to go. Suhaib spent the weekend in Peshawar, getting a sense of what and where the issues were. This camp is probably the tip of the iceberg, and the numbers are most certainly going to increase. Ironically, of all the camps you’ll see on the UN list, this is not one of them. One is desperately hopeful that its the only one. 

More updates as they’re ready.


One Response to “Hathian IDP Camps”

  1. Tariq Hussain Mughal said

    Subject: Emerging Humanitarian Crisis in Pakistan

    For Attention of: Human Right, NGO (National / International) & UN Agencies.
    Hundred & thousands of people displaced by fighting between government forces and militants in Swat Valley, North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Pakistan have been pouring into the provincial capital Peshawar, federal capital Islamabad and other cities of Pakistan beside major concentration at Mardan and Swabi districts adjacent to conflict zone, but many are reluctant to move into camps for “cultural reasons”. According to UNHCR figures, 834,000 Pakistan’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than 550,000 people who fled fighting last year, with Pakistan facing a crisis of more than 1.3 million displaced people. The UN says more than 800,000 people are living in very harsh conditions in camps for those displaced by the fighting. Thousands arrived after the curfew was eased at the weekend. About 150,000 civilians are trapped in the main city, Mingora, with gas, electricity and food increasingly scarce, the BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad says. Residents told AFP new agency that Taleban holding the city had mined roads and dug trenches around it. It is predicted that a further influx is expected on Friday May 15, 2009 as curfew is lifted in parts of the Swat valley from 0600 to 1400 (0100-0900GMT). Till time before the latest influx were living outside camps, often with relatives an approximated to 80% of total IDP’s. Mr. Iftikhar Hussain information minister of province told at press briefing that the total IDP’s may touch the number of + 2.00 million in next few days.

    It is accepts that it would be easier for government / NGO’s financially to move to a refugee camp, such as the Jallozai Camp near Peshawar where arrangements have been made to accommodate more peoples. But, this is impossible “Because our women observe strict ‘purdah’ [veil-wearing tradition] and the thought of having them live in tents in close proximity to strangers is just inconceivable. There would be no privacy.” This is a concern for many of the displaced families. They do not want to move to camps for cultural reasons.”

    Some interviewed had been conducted for better understanding the cultural / custom norms are as follow:

    Gulbano Bibi, 60, a grandmother who with her two sons and their families is currently living with relatives in Islamabad, however, says the problem is not one of ‘purdah’ alone. “We have always lived with dignity, even though we are poor. The thought of moving to a camp and living at the mercy of others is just not something we can accept,” she said. Two of Gulbano’s small grandchildren have for the past three days been going out to work to help their family make ends meet, but she insists: “They have no school to go to so they may as well work so we can save a little money and find a small house to rent.” Such attitudes complicate the situation for IDPs. Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), told: “These people need urgent help, because their situation is worsening by the day.” She urged the government to establish a special task force on the IDP crisis, warning “the figure could touch the millions marks soon.”

    UNHCR help: “If you are not able to cope with the challenges posed by overwhelming displaced… this population will become a huge factor of de-stabilisation,” Mr Guterres said after visiting a camp for people displaced by the fighting. As international concern over the situation mounts, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was preparing to step up, its already considerable humanitarian assistance to the region. UNHCR head António Guterres said in a statement: “As part of the UN response, UNHCR is already sending humanitarian aid items to new camps which we are helping to set up in the Mardan and Swabi districts [in NWFP]. We are also assisting the authorities to establish two new reception centres, and two more are planned for newly displaced people on main routes adjacent to the conflict zone. We are also helping with their registration.” Over the past four days the UNHCR has helped the authorities register nearly 45,000 people and establish 12 new registration points.

    Great Humanitarian Dilemma
    The peoples from western part of NWFP live under extremist hostage since more then last two years, especially from September 2008, their village and towns are under siege women and children’s are being deprived from their basic right of education, medical, movement and expression. Extremist are destroying schools, health facilities, imposing ban on movement of women’s without accompanying husband or father. Till now hundred of schools, health facilities, police stations and other government property and installations has been destroyed. One week before the government decide to establish its rite and start unannounced military operation which cause the humanitarian crises more versed. Result a huge migration of the peoples to get escape from the conflict zone during curfew relaxed hours, Taleban extremist plan to use human as shield in the conflict and reframe the peoples from moving either by force or planting mines on the ways from where people get out from the region. So, majority of population still laying on the mercy of engage forces. However, the IDP,s lucky to get escape from the conflict zone are facing the following problem which need attention of human right, non government and UN intervention with immediate affect.

    1 IDP’s should be provided transportation for safe journey toward the organized camps.
    2 Curfew hours should be relaxed enough to allow the migrants to get out of from conflict zone.
    3 Proper facilitation should be provided to IDP,s for registration of families and information about where to go.
    4 On arrival at IDP camp, basic necessities should be provided as much as possible.

    Immediate Needs / Requirements

    As the peoples are fleeing out from the conflict zone and remain under siege since long, their livelihood has been destroyed and are compel to reach the safe areas for safety of their life, travelling on foot about +80 k.m. from Swat by carrying children’s, patients, wounded and some time dead bodies of their loved one, with empty hand and pockets. The conflict zone having congenial atmosphere and not goes up from 28 centigrade, but now they will reside in the area where mercury often goes beyond 42.

    Immediate (NFI) items need by each IDP Family (8 member average in family):

    • 1 Plastic Bucket with Mug
    • 1 Watercolour,
    • 1 Carpet (8 X 10) 80 Square feet’s
    • 8 Pillow,
    • 1 Stove, (Burner + Small Gas Cylinder)
    • 3 Cooking pot different size,
    • 2 Cooking spoons
    • 8 Rice Plate,
    • 8 Rice spoon,
    • 8 Glass,
    • 8 Cup,
    • 4 Both Soap,
    • 4 Towel,
    • 2 Toothpaste,
    • 8 Tooth brush,
    • Detergent powder / Soap for Cloth washing &
    • Pot for cloth washing
    • 8 Bed sheets
    • 6 Mattresses
    However, there are acute shortage of tents & blankets as well, but the most important is provision of safe drinking water, availability of pit latrine, sanitation / sewerage system in the camps, health & hygiene awareness campaign along-with material support. Otherwise, the danger of eruption of waterborne diseases, rabbis and other as well, some cases has been witness of Suffering from a number of contagious diseases such as diarrhea, skin allergy, eye-infection and Pneumonia. Furthermore, the education system need to be establish may be by formal or informal education and vocational training facilities for women and adolescence, presently there is no recreational place in the camps for the Childs in spite of major junk of population in camps comprises on under 18 years of age, & more then 70 of are the women and children’s (W&C) both the W&C are suffering since long and get traumatize especially after the outbreak of arm conflict and migration. They need trauma counselling, physiotherapy, Scio social activities for inhaling, need information’s about their missing family members and especial care to the unaccompanied Child & adolescences.

    Child protection is the one of the major issue at the moment; with out specialized agencies intervention the danger of child sex abuse and child trafficking can not be ignored. So, it is humbly requested to all humanitarian agencies to come forward and play their role to secure & protect the future of IDP’s especially W&C. Serving to Pakistani IDP’s can prevent particularly the region (Afghanistan, India, China, Bangladesh, etc) and the rest of the world in large. Other wise occurrence of many other 9/11 can not be stopped.

    Hereunder are the some known facts about conflict in (Swat NWFP) Pakistan

    Pakistani soldiers closed in on Tuesday on a Taliban headquarters in Swat, the military said, as the United Nations called for help for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting.

    The offensive in Swat, 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, is seen as a test of the government’s commitment to face up to a growing Taliban insurgency and comes after the United States accused it of “abdicating” to the militants.

    Here are some facts about Swat and the insurgency there:
    Swat is not on the Afghan border but Western countries with troops in Afghanistan fear the area could turn into a bastion for Taliban militants fighting in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and for al Qaeda.
    Islamist militancy emerged in Swat, an alpine beauty spot and former tourism favorite, in the 1990s when cleric Sufi Mohammad took up arms to impose sharia law there and in neighboring areas of the Malakand region.
    Sofi was arrested after he returned to Pakistan having led thousands of fighters to Afghanistan in 2001 in a vain attempt to help the Taliban resist U.S.-backed forces.
    Pakistani authorities released him in 2008 in a bid to defuse another uprising, led by his son-in-law, Molvi Fazlullah, who has ties with other Pakistani Taliban factions and al Qaeda.
    Fazlullah called his men to arms after a military assault on the Red Mosque in Islamabad in mid-2007 to put down an armed movement seeking to impose Islamic law. Fazlullah used illegal FM radio to propagate his message and became known as Mullah Radio.
    The army deployed troops in Swat in October 2007 and used artillery and gunship helicopters to reassert control. But insecurity mounted after a civilian government came to power last year and tried to reach a negotiated settlement.
    A peace accord fell apart in May 2008. After that hundreds, including soldiers, militants and civilians, died in battles.
    Militants gained control of almost the entire valley and unleashed a reign of terror, killing and beheading politicians, singers, soldiers and opponents. They banned female education and destroyed nearly 200 girls’ schools.
    Pakistan offered in February to introduce Islamic law in Swat and nearby areas in a bid to take the steam out of the insurgency. The militants announced a ceasefire after the army said it was halting operations. President Asif Ali Zardari signed a regulation imposing Islamic law in the area last month.
    But the Taliban refused to give up their guns and pushed into Buner, only 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Islamabad, and another district adjacent to Swat.
    Amid mounting concern at home and abroad, security forces launched an offensive to expel militants from Buner and another district near Swat on April 26.
    Taliban seized government buildings in Mingora, the main town in Swat, and the military began attacking them.
    Last Thursday, the prime minister directed the military “to eliminate the militants and terrorists” and the army stepped up its attacks the next day.
    Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said on Monday 700 Taliban and 20 soldiers had been killed. Most reporters have left Swat and there was no independent confirmation of that estimate of militant casualties, which was higher than figures provided by the military.

    Any further information if required can ask by phone: +92 314 5001548 or e-mail, from Tariq Hussain Mughal, NWFP Pakistan,

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