The country at large seems to own the military offensive in North Waziristan, but seems just as unwilling to take ownership of the fallout. As people evacuate from North Waziristan in thousands, men and women, young and old, there seem to be few places for them to seek shelter. Although the military operation has been a long time coming — it had been expected for months, if not longer — it seems that Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have appeared suddenly, as if no one expected them to exist. Since the operation started on June 15, the absence of any plan or arrangements to accommodate IDPs is becoming more and more apparent.
Two days into the operation, Sindh unabashedly declared that IDPs will not be allowed in the province. The Balochistan government has also deployed more Frontier Corps troops at the border connecting the province to South Waziristan, in order to check the influx of people evacuating. It’s only Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that is establishing camps for the victims, but how many IDPs will one province be able to provide shelter to? In contrast, Afghanistan is more welcoming to these displaced families.
With the influx of IDPs, provinces fear a surge in polio cases. This is an understandable concern, but who spoke up for the children of Waziristan where there has been a ban on vaccination drives since 2012? Who demanded the centre to stand up for the fight against polio as children in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas continued to be crippled for life? These are questions those against IDPs coming to their provinces must ask, and also be able to answer.
Undoubtedly, frequent natural disasters in the country and internal migrations due to conflict have made it difficult to accommodate soaring populations in urban centres, but the country as a whole must realise that neither is the war only being fought for the tribal agencies nor is the problem of terrorism and militant hideouts restricted to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The country stands united for a military operation and it should stand just as united to give space and shelter to those suffering the worst from more than a decade of conflict.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2014.