Displacement woes: Five shopkeepers arrested for withholding relief money

IDPs would go to collect cash redeemable via a code but the shops keep a portion of the aid.

APP/our Correspondent July 20, 2014

BANNU: Five shopkeepers were arrested for trying to fleece internally displaced persons (IDP) in Bannu on Sunday.

Based on intelligence reports, the cantonment police raided multiple markets in the area and arrested shopkeepers who were misappropriating portions of aid money which IDPs collect from designated shops upon receiving a text message. Cantonment police official Malik Ehsan Dawar said five men were arrested for withholding a portion of the money when the IDPs attempted to collect the amount at the shops.

The government has devised a system according to which each displaced family receives a cell phone SIM card with their ration card. The government can then send them money which makes up part of the IDP relief package.

A code is sent to cell phone number and the SIM card holder can show the verification number to the shopkeeper who will then hand over the money. A set number of shops have contracts to take part in the relief package and receive the cash in their accounts.

Dawar said shopkeepers were trying to steal around Rs500 from the IDPs after which the crackdown was launched.

The arrested shopkeepers were identified as Sijad Khan, Damsaz, Amanullah, Lais Khan, and Munawar Khan. Dawar added that the men were put behind bars and an investigation is underway.

Relief round-up

Around 5,631 displaced families have received cash assistance from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), said Tajdar Khan on Sunday. Of those, 5,524 received cash assistance through mobile SIMs in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, DI Khan, Karak, Abbottabad, Mansehra and Peshawar.

Khan, who is the PDMA’s focal person, said the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had disbursed over Rs44 million among the IDPs of North Waziristan Agency under its Esaar Programme.

Special health counters have been set up at state-run hospitals to provide IDPs free diagnostic and treatment facilities in addition to free medicines, said Khan. The health department has also increased the number of doctors and paramedics at IDP camps, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2014.