Looking after the displaced

There is a need for more transparency regarding the information available on tribal regions & the repatriation process


Editorial July 02, 2015
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there has been a virtual halt to the repatriation of residents displaced from South Waziristan. PHOTO: AFP

In terms of internal displacements, Pakistan is often faced with a humanitarian crisis. Every year — in fact sometimes every few months — we see large-scale displacements on account of a natural calamity or a military operation, leaving countless people homeless. Since 2008, over five million people have been displaced from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata alone. And last year, the number of people yet to be rehabilitated and returned to their homes was over one million, according to UN estimates. But as things stand now, there is little knowledge and transparency over the repatriation process, as well as the conditions displaced persons are faced with upon their return.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there has been a virtual halt to the repatriation of residents displaced from South Waziristan. There were a total of 62,000 displaced families from the agency and of these only 3,238 families had returned to their homes by March. Since then, clearance has not been given for anyone else to return and the reasons of the delay remain unclear. Residents displaced from North Waziristan also remain in a flux. At present, 88 per cent of families from Khyber Agency and North and South Waziristan remain displaced, while many wish to go back to their homes because of the poor living conditions at IDP camps. Last week, at least two people were shot dead and 10 others injured after fire was opened at a protest at an IDP camp in Bannu. Such incidents raise questions about how displaced persons are being treated. There seems to be little information about the situation in North Waziristan and the conditions those repatriated are returning to.

While authorities claim there is complete provision of health, education and other necessary facilities in affected areas, there is need for more transparency regarding the information available on the tribal regions and the repatriation process itself. IDPs must mean more than mere numbers to people in other parts of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd,  2015.

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