MANSEHRA: Residents of Kala Dhaka are reportedly fleeing their homes to take refuge in Mansehra district, NWFP, in a move that aid workers say will most likely strain the resources already available in the province for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“It is better for us to leave [the area] now, while it is safe. The roads here are poor and I have heard terrible stories of how people were trapped in Swat once fighting began,” said Afsar Khan, 40, who has brought his family of eight from Kala Dhaka to his brother’s home in Mansehra. “Things have been getting tense at home and there are reports the Taliban have set up hideouts in various places,” Khan said.
Peoples’ fears are not unfounded. “There are reports Kala Dhaka has become the new base for the Swat Taliban,” said Inspector-General of NWFP Police, Malik Naveed Khan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that civilians would not be affected by any operation in the area but the people are not convinced.
Fighting between security forces and Taliban militants has also intensified in Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), exacerbating the outflow of residents in the agency. There are close to 200,000 people in 35,185 families registered as IDPs in Hangu and Kohat districts according to an April 2 Pakistan Humanitarian Update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Around 71 percent of those registered are from Orakzai while the remaining people have migrated from Kurram Agency in Fata, the update said. The situation is bad. OCHA has managed to generate only $106 million since February, when it appealed for an aid of US $ 537 to feed around 1.3 million people. The threat of fresh displacements is raising fears over humanitarian funding.
UN humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told journalists in Islamabad on April 12 that they may have to suspend some aid projects. “The response by the international community to this appeal is inadequate,” Mogwanja said. “Humanitarian actors responding to the needs of the people are concerned that some of the projects may have to be suspended because of lack of finances.”
While most of the displaced are living with host families, their plight is, in many cases, dire. “We are dependent on charity. The people who keep us in their homes are also suffering because of the problem of feeding and keeping us. Where are we to go?” said Mobeen Khan, from Bajaur, in Fata. His house there had been “completely destroyed” and he is currently living with a cousin in Mansehra.
Residents don’t place much value on politician’s promises of peace, either. “We have heard such promises before. If there are bombing raids, how can people be safe?” Ashfaque Yusufzai, a local resident, asked. He said he had come to Mansehra to check on rental rates, and was planning to move his family “so the children, at least, are safe”.
“There is a huge sense of fear. People know the Taliban are among us, and as a result we will face bullets and grenades,” said Yusufzai. He said he was lucky to be able to move his family. “Worse off are the very poor- who cannot even think of leaving.”
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