Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Conflict and Internal Displacement: A Case Study of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan in Pakistan

Portia B.Conrad

For Pakistan, the task of settling its internally displaced people (IDPs) has beyond doubt been a mammoth challenge. Since a majority of its population live below the poverty line, there has been a slow recovery. But militant activities have only worsened the situation. The unexpected terrorist attacks, shelling through tanks and aircraft bombings have destroyed the houses in the area leaving residents with no other choice than to migrate. (i)

On March 2013, ten civilians and one aid worker were killed and several others were injured when a bomb exploded at the Jalozai camp for IDPs, inNowsherae district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP), formerly a portion of theNorth West Frontier Province (NWFP), in Pakistan. This attack highlights that IDPs were unsafe even in the temporary shelters provided for them. (ii)

Besides, significant militant activity in the southern districts of KP and coordinated assaults on the Political Agent office in Peshawar district indicated that the security situation had deteriorated in KP. In Tirah Valley of Khyber agency, clashes continued between two opposing militant groups throughout the first half of this year. The Balochistan province, at the same time, remained equally volatile with the violent sectarian attacks against minority Shia Hazara community. (iii)

Such incidents of terror have impacted the people living there. The latest wave of displacement has seen over 130,000 people leave their homes in Pakistan’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) since March because of fighting between government soldiers and militants allied to the Taliban in the Khyber and Kurram agencies.(iv) The terror incidents were more frequent in the NWFP which is geopolitically divided into KP and FATA for administrative reasons. Militant activities have been reported from the provinces of Punjab and Sindh as well, but there were no reports of such mass displacement of locals. They were safer with more facilities around them. Why does this happen? There can be a few answers -

•When Pakistan was born its national leadership had tried to create its national identity based on common religion and reinforced state authority with excessive centralization of powers. They were not sure about the unity of divided people in a newly emerging state. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam but the idea of separate Muslim nationality was not much popular in many areas and more over many of its prudent leaders did not belong to these areas which were parts of Pakistan. Therefore the communication gap between the leadership and masses was wide and still remains the same. It has extended if not reduced. In these situations, regional leaders created a sense of mistrust, disharmony and disunity and ethno nationalist leaders took the charge of movements which were started for democracy and secularization of polity. (v)

•After the US troops withdraws from Afghanistan, FATA could be more vulnerable as the Afghan militants have set up bases there. Supporters of the Afghan Taliban in the tribal areas transitioned into a mainstream Taliban force of their own as a reaction to the Pakistani army's incursion into the tribal areas. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) not only has representation from all of FATA's seven agencies but also from several settled districts of the NWFP.Pakistan's security forces are struggling to confront these domestic militants.(vi) The perceived marginalization by these regions in comparison to the mainstream is an important cause that has led to such a situation.

Terrorism has also had an impact on the economy of the state that has deepened the instability. Terrorism disturbs the inhabitants, damages infrastructure, causes a decline in economic well-being, brings political instability and breaks the social fabric of the society.More than 3 million people were displaced which resulted in a budgetary outlay of US $ 600 million in the fiscal year 2009 alone for relief and rehabilitation process of the IDPs. (vii)

The huge numbers of IDPs has created a humanitarian crisis. Between 80 and 90 percent of the IDPs do not have safe shelter. If the international community responds to their needs, these IDPs could present a potentially powerful constituency of civil opposition to extremism.The humanitarian crisis in FATA has received significantly less attention than displacement from KP’s Malakand region. Many have been unable to register or receive assistance due to the military’s tight control over access to humanitarian agencies in KP’s IDP hosting areas and continued security threats. In parts of FATA, most notably Bajaur agency, families have been forced to flee repeatedly because of militant resurgence. (viii)They had been displaced as a consequence of the conflict between non-state armed groups and government security operations in March this year, when over 17,000 families were forced to flee.

Thus it is imperative to consider the implications of increasing displacement of people internally within Pakistan.Displacement caused by ethnic and sectarian violence, as part of terrorism, in central FATA indicates that forced family groups are to move within the region to areas controlled by their own tribe or religious denomination. Over a period of time, communal polarization has forced whole communities to move, creating (semi) permanent segregated communities. The displacement of Shia communities from Lower to Upper Kurram and Sunni communities from Upper to Lower Kurram is an example of this.

Pakistan has been swinging between military rule and democracy, where the latter is weaker. The IDPs demand basic amenities to survive. They should not be an add-on factor to the existing instability in the state. If military objectives dictate rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, a population exhausted by conflict could become a soft target for militants, making stability in the northwest even more elusive.

It is crucial to particularly analyse how the state has responded to this development. The Pakistani government has no national policy on addressing conflict-induced displacement and there have been no reports of any systematic government assistance to these types of IDPs in the country, the majority of whom are displaced as a result of combat between the army and insurgent forces. Initiatives by provincial governments to aid the displaced have had varying degrees of success. In Islamabad, despite expressing keenness to reconcile with warring Baloch factions, the newly elected PML-N government has shown little interest in ensuring safe return of around 200,000 IDPs from DeraBugti to their respective areas. This led to almost a two-month long protest against the government. (ix)

Besides, in 2007-08, when militancy increased and terrorists started getting control of settled districts of Pakistan like Swat, the Pakistan army conducted successful military operations against the terrorists. For security and civil relief operations up to US $ 4 billion (2.4 percent of average GDP) additional expenditures were incurred on the annual budget. It is also interesting to note that in 2013,over 2,362 internally displaced families (8,826 individuals) from the BaghMaidan area of Tirah Valley, Khyber Agency in FATA have received assistance to return home, according to FATA Disaster Management Authorities. Since January, 14,620 families have returned to Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand and South Waziristan agencies; authorities wish to repatriate 97,600 families (585,600 individuals) before the end of the year.(x)

First, the Pakistan government should allocate more funds to help the IDPs.

Second, it could also devise a rehabilitation and reconstruction policy in FATA and KP based on broad consultation with representatives of conflict and disaster-affected communities, credible local NGOs and professional organisations, and the national and provincial parliaments.

Third, ensure that registration and assistance for FATA’s IDPs is civilian-led and based on vulnerability rather than location. All restrictions must be removed, including No Objection Certificates, for humanitarian agencies, as well as all requirements for such agencies to share confidential data on beneficiaries with the military.

Lastly, the state should incorporate FATA into the constitutional, political and legal mainstream.


i) Mohsin, ZakiaRubab, “The Crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan and their Impact on Pashtun Women”
URL: http://frc.com.pk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/6.pdf

ii) OHCHR, “UN expert calls for better protection for internally displaced people camps after brutal car bomb attack in Pakistan” (Online: Web) Accessed on: 29 October 2013

iii) NRC Fact Sheet, “NRC's Country Programme in Pakistan” Accessed on: 27 October 2013
URL: http://www.nrc.no/?did=9178477

iv) One World South Asia, “Pakistan's IDPs find it can get worse” (Online: Web) Accessed on: 21 November 2013
URL: http://southasia.oneworld.net/resources/pakistans-idps-find-it-can-get-worse#.Uo3QrNKnogF

v) Aziz, K. K. (2001), Pakistan’s Political Culture: Essays in Historical and Social Origins, Vanguard Books Pvt. Ltd.

vi) Bajoria, Jayshree and Masters, Jonathan, “Pakistan's New Generation of Terrorists”
URL: http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/pakistans-new-generation-terrorists/p15422

vii) TariqMehmood, “Economic effects of war on terror” The Frontier Post, FATA, 3 August 2013
URL: http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/31286/

viii) Asia Briefing, “Pakistan: The Worsening IDP Crisis” (Online: Web) Accessed on: 28 October 2013
URL: http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-asia/pakistan/B111-pakistan-the-worsening-idp-crisis.aspx

ix) WaseemAbbasi, “200,000 Baloch people still displaced; little done so far” The News International, Islamabad, 28 June 2013
URL: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-186516-200,000-Baloch-people-still-displaced;-little-done-so-far

x) Reliefweb, “Return of thousands of IDPs continues in Pakistan’s volatile north-west” (Online: Web) Accessed on: 29 October 2013
URL: http://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/return-thousands-idps-continues-pakistan%E2%80%99s-volatile-north-west

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