It was a hot summer day on June 15 when our security forces began the inevitable Zarb-e-Azb military operation against miscreants residing in North Waziristan Agency, killing hundreds of terrorists and causing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate the area.
While the armed forces were focusing on targeting the terrorists and their hideouts, the civil administration started making arrangements for taking care of the IDPs. The Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) was immediately made the focal ministry for ensuring coordinated efforts in providing relief to the people.
This was not an ordinary undertaking. A staggering one million displaced persons have been registered to date. Although our suave federal minister for SAFRON Abdul Qadir Baloch has informed that final figure of displaced persons would only be available after their verification by NADRA, yet the numbers are expected to be huge.
Rather than being overwhelmed by this Herculean task, the entire government machinery, under the directions of the prime minister, galvanised all possible resources and came forward to facilitate the displaced families.
Dislocation is always difficult. Doing it in peak summertime is more challenging. Add Ramazan to the equation and it becomes a real test of one’s character. Keeping this in view the government has taken numerous measures to make this phase as comfortable for the dislocated families as possible.
The federal government has reportedly provided around six billion rupees for the IDPs. In addition, employees of the federal government and the army have donated one day’s salary for their brethren. During his visit to an IDP camp in Bannu, the prime minister announced that each family would be paid Rs40,000 during the first month. To disburse the relief amount in an efficient and transparent manner the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) signed an agreement with Zong cellular phone company, which has been highly appreciated by the people.
Due to local customs, the people of the tribal areas do not like to live in camps and most families have chosen to live with their relatives or in rented accommodation at other places in the country, mostly within K-P.
For the few families living in the camps and some in school buildings, round the clock provision of electricity has been ensured. Temporary mosques built and medical facilities were made available to them. Polio vaccines have been administered to every individual coming out of the agency.
Steps have also been taken for the well being of cattle and livestock with mobile veterinary clinics established in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Karak and Tank to treat and vaccinate them giving protection against different seasonal and viral infections.
To provide better medical facilities to the IDPs, PIMS hospital Islamabad has been given control over the Bannu District Hospital. Two mobile hospitals equipped with six beds, operation theaters, X-ray machines and a laboratory have been stationed in Bannu.
The elders and notables of North Waziristan have expressed their gratitude to the government for undertaking the military operation so that they can live freely in their homeland. In a recent meeting with Mr Baloch the local tribesmen extended complete support to the government’s action and said they wanted to get rid of those miscreants who had held the people of these areas hostage for the last many years. Grand nephew of the Faqir of Ipi, who was leading the jirga, said “the people of North Waziristan are ready to undergo any hardship for the cause of peace in Pakistan and requested the government to take all measures to not only clear the area of miscreants but also to stop their reemergence.”
Some ill-informed people have naively criticised the government by suggesting that elaborate arrangements should have been in place before the commencement of the military operation for taking care of IDPs. Of course, this could not have been done as it would have compromised the secrecy of the entire Zarb-e-Azb scheme, taking the edge away from the government.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb will have four phases: sorting out the terrorists, launching ground operation to clear the terrorist hideouts, reconstruction of damaged houses and infrastructure, and the return of displaced persons to their homeland to start their life afresh.
Successful completion of all these stages will take time. It is heartening to note that the government’s foremost priority is that the sacrifices of the people of North Waziristan must not go waste. Right now the government is in the process of assessing the needs of this area in the short and long term to allocate sufficient amount of funds for rebuilding the infrastructure, return of IDPs and their rehabilitation. It would be a major reconstruction effort involving renewal of social contract between the tribes and the State of Pakistan.
Taking care of the displaced families is not the responsibility of the state alone. It is binding upon each and every Pakistani to come forward to the help of these people. They have sacrificed their households for the sake of peace in the country. The best way to acknowledge their sacrifices is to provide them best treatment and best possible facilities during their temporary stay away from home. The government is doing a lot, but the people of Pakistan must also do their bit.
The displaced persons of North Waziristan are the heroes of the nation. They have sacrificed their today for the nation’s tomorrow. The hardship they have to undergo in getting dislocated is crucial in ensuring lasting peace in Pakistan. Therefore, one would wish all political parties of the country and all segments of society to show unity and solidarity among their ranks and support the government’s efforts in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2014.
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