Even though there have been fresh displacements notably out of the Kurram and Khyber agencies this year, the fate of internally displaced persons (IDP) in the country have been largely forgotten. The 500,000 or so persons in the country still displaced by conflict, according to figures from international humanitarian agencies, are largely dependent on shelter and assistance provided by relatives, though feeding programmes run by the World Food Programme continue to function in some areas. Most IDPs have never moved into camps, some move back and forth and this makes their number harder to estimate. What we do know is that most IDPs live in extremely miserable conditions, struggling for survival and in many cases unable to return home because they have nothing left to go back to.
The situation could worsen. We continue to hear of an impending military operation in North Waziristan, an agency with a population of around 400,000. This would invariably mean more displacements. The number is hard to predict as yet but any further movement and displacements would result in more people being rendered homeless and dependent on outside help. This is not a welcome situation, especially as we have not been able to look after those already in need. Resource constraints add to the problems and the issue has, of course, vanished from the public gaze. Few even remember that we still have a huge IDP population. To complicate matters, those who have returned have received little help in rebuilding their lives.
In North Waziristan, there is already talk of possible displacement. People wonder where they will go and what they will do should full-fledged conflict break out in an area which is now seen as a key militant safe haven. This dimension of the problem needs to be given attention and plans need to be put in place to deal with any fresh wave of displacements. At the same time, those still living away from home need help so that we can find solutions to a problem that has persisted now for years, with wave after wave of people forced out of homes in the north.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.