Protests erupt over delay in ration supplies

Published: June 25, 2014
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Displaced persons protest outside a World Food Programme food distribution point in Bannu. PHOTO: AFP

Displaced persons protest outside a World Food Programme food distribution point in Bannu. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD / BANNU: 

Hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) protested on the Bannu-Kohat Road against a delay in the provision of rations on Tuesday and police and troops fired warning shots to break up the demonstrations.

DSP Sanaullah Khan Marwat told The Express Tribune that a provision point for rations was established at the Ziyad Akram Khan Durrani Sport Complex in Bannu, where thousands of IDPs gathered on Tuesday morning. The World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing aid through a local aid group on Monday. However, due to a delay in the provisions, a large number of IDPs who had queued for hours started chanting slogans against the government.

Soon an estimated 500 IDPs began pelting the provision office with stones and blocked the road after burning tyres and wooden logs, the DSP said.

He added that heavy contingents of police were unable to control thousands of IDPs at the spot. Bannu Commissioner Syed Mohsin Shah attempted to quell the protests, but his car was attacked by the IDPs. The Bannu-Kohat road remained blocked until 3 pm, after which the protesters dispersed.

Mohammad Nazir Khan, a lawmaker from the region, said many people who should be receiving aid were having problems with registration and documents. Local administration official Aurang Zeb said more food distribution points would be opened soon and the authorities would do all they could to help those in need.

‘The fighting is about to intensify’

A total of 450,681 IDPs were registered as the deadline for evacuation from the agency ended on Monday, said officials. “The fighting in NWA is about to intensify as the evacuation process is now complete,” officials added. Senior officials said areas around Mir Ali and Miramshah have been evacuated, while residents of Razmak, Datta Khel and Shewa tehsil do not need to be evacuated.

Several IDPs who chose not to live in camps are staying in schools and houses in Bannu, where officials say rents are inflated from Rs5,000 to Rs15,000. There are also complaints of increased transport fares with charges of over Rs30,000 for a ride to Bannu from Miramshah. Since routes from remote areas of North Waziristan had been closed off, some tribesmen reached Kurram Agency via Afghanistan, tribal elders from Parachinar said.

Nearly 700 families have reached Thal tehsil of Hangu district without any household items. Hangu Deputy Commissioner Naeem Anwar Sadozai said IDPs are being registered by local police and district government officials and being allowed to live in Thal. According to Sadozai, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government gave no directions to the district government and thus it remains unable to either facilitate or expel the IDPs. “The residents of Hangu are helping the IDPs from their own pocket on humanitarian grounds,” said Sadozai.

Thal police station SHO Farid Khan said around 50,000 people have come to Hangu and a registration point has been set up on Kurram Pul. “We are not allowed to facilitate the IDPs, we just register them and allow them into the district,” Khan added.

Bakht Jan, an IDP from Miramshah, said all families reached the district with nothing but the clothes they wore. “All our possessions were taken from us by security officials at the check post. That may be for security reasons, but we are no threat to national security, we are simply displaced,” said Jan. He added that several families remain unable to rent houses as all have been booked by other IDPs. “We have to buy UNHCR-allotted tents from locals at Rs9,000 to Rs10,000 per tent,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2014.

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