Two suicide bombings at a registration centre for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kacha Pakha area of Kohat killed 41 people on April 17. The IDPs were standing in a queue at the centre when the first suicide bomber blew himself up.
A second suicide bomber struck minutes later when people rushed to the spot to help the injured. Reportedly, a militant organisation, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Alami, claimed responsibility for the attacks and it seems the motive for the attack was sectarian in nature. Most IDPs at this particular camp happen to be from the Manikhel and Bar Mohammadkhel tribes which are Shia and from Orakzai.
Furthermore, Kacha Pakha, a largely Shia area in Kohat, was hit by a terrorist attack for the second time in recent months. In September 2009 a suicide bombing killed 33 people and the same group claimed responsibility for the attack. An IDP, Rafil Hussain, who was injured in the latest attack, had lost his brother in the attack last year. The Shia tribes of Orakzai are being targeted because they are fully supporting the ongoing army operation against the Taliban.
As proof of this, one can see banners in support of the Pakistan Army in the areas of the agency dominated by these two tribes. Meanwhile, residents of Kacha Pakha and the nearby villages continue to receive threats from the Taliban. Schools, banks and post offices have received threatening letters and at least one has been closed down as has the registration centre since the attacks. Moreover, the United Nations has suspended humanitarian work for IDPs in Kohat and in neighbouring Hangu.
This has made matters even worse for the IDPs who are in any case living a miserable existence, fearful of another attack by the Taliban. The IDPs have said that the government and the UN should immediately resume the registration process so that they can get the required aid and relief. They have also requested the army chief for financial aid for those affected by the blast because so far none has been forthcoming. This is ironic given that they have staunchly supported the army action against the Taliban.
Some IDPs have also asked for assistance from funds set aside for the Fata Development Programme for Livelihood Development. In the case of a suicide attack in a nearby village of Lakki Marwat, those affected had been given assistance from these funds and the IDPs of Orakzai in Kohat want similar treatment. The government and the military need to provide security to the IDPs as many are feeling that they were targeted because they have spoken out against the Taliban.
Local support is essential for military operations against the Taliban but unfortunately whenever such support is forthcoming those who are behind it are ruthlessly targeted and hunted down by the militants. This happened initially in Swat as well until the force of public opinion compelled the military to launch an operation to oust the Taliban from the valley. Let’s hope that things do not come to this in the case of Orakzai or other parts of Fata.