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Mohmand IDPs: forced expulsion? — by Farhat Taj

The IDPs from Mohmand must not be forced to leave the camp. Let us not forget that the people of Mohmand Agency, like people from elsewhere in FATA, are paying the torturous price for the military establishment’s policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan

About 2,000 registered and 1,000 unregistered Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Mohmand Agency in FATA are living in Jalozai camp, Nowshera, for about 15 months. Lack of clean drinking water, food, medicines and extreme weather conditions have made their lives miserable. Some have lost near and dear ones to militancy. Now the administration of Jalozai camp and Mohmand Agency’s political authorities have formally agreed to make arrangements for the repatriation of the IDPs from the camp to their native areas. The IDPs do not want to leave the camp due to the dangerous security situation in their native areas that they say never improved since they became IDPs. Also, reportedly, they have not received any kind of compensation including cash cards for their losses.

I had a chance to discuss this issue with some IDPs from Safi in Mohmand Agency. They informed me that every night the Taliban roam around in the area and brutally kill whosoever they like for any reason under the sun. There is no state authority to challenge them. The Taliban, they say, have destroyed all health units, hospitals and schools in their area and have forcefully occupied many people’s houses.

The IDPs said that the people of Mohmand Agency made at least three anti-Taliban lashkars. The leaders of most of the lashkars have been target-killed by the Taliban.

The IDPs say that Ghalanai in Mohmand Agency, where the security forces are stationed, is relatively safer. The other safer area in the agency is Prang Ghar, where there are neither the Taliban nor the security forces. All other areas in the Agency are at the mercy of the Taliban. Sources close to the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa inform that intelligence networks that work under the civilian government are operative in Prang Ghar area and this is the key reason why the area is relatively free of the Taliban.

Basically, the IDPs have two apprehensions that stop them from going back to Mohmand Agency. One is the continued presence of the Taliban. They request for state security against the Taliban before they go back. They request that a high-ranking state authority, like the Political Agent Mohmand Agency, must publicly announce in front of the media that the state would be responsible for any losses of the repatriated IDPs at the hands of the Taliban.

Two, the IDPs are afraid that because of the Taliban’s presence, the security forces will inevitably come after them and there would be armed clashes leading to civilian casualties, as has been happening in the past in many areas in FATA. This situation, the IDPs say, would force them to flee their areas once again. Therefore, they appealed to President Zardari to stop their forced repatriation by the authorities.

Moreover, they also appealed to the government to provide them electricity, water, medicine and food. There is no electricity in the camps, where about 100,000 people from different areas of FATA live. Only some toilets have electricity. The harsh summer is approaching and the IDPs are asking for fans and electricity in the tents. There are no medicines in the health units at the camp. Many people are sick and have been asked by the camp health staff to buy medicines. The IDPs simply do not have the money to buy medicines.

The IDPs request more food rations. The monthly food ration given to the IDPs’ families is finished in 10 to 15 days. One reason is that the amount of the ration is too little for the whole family and, secondly, many families share it with unregistered relatives. They request that the unregistered IDPs be registered at the earliest so that they could receive their own food ration. They also request philanthropists and NGOs all over Pakistan to help.

The IDPs complain that the camp administration treats them with contempt. The humanitarian conditions in the camp are pathetic, but have been kept out of the public eye. Any dignitaries visiting the camp are taken to a camp school made by the International Red Cross Committee or to one of the health units, which are relatively in better condition. The rest of almost everything in the camp is in deplorable condition, but no one seems to take note of it. They request the Pakistani media to highlight their plight so that the people of Pakistan know about their miserable situation.

Some observers of the Jalozai camp and Mohmand Agency suggest that the IDPs should go back to Mohmand Agency and shoulder some security responsibility in their respective communities through some kind of community policing. In lieu of that, the government must provide them food, medicines and compensation for their material losses. Health staff with necessary equipment should be sent to the area. NGOs and philanthropists should be given a safe access to the areas to provide help to the communities. This arrangement should continue till the security forces effectively secure the area.

Security is the responsibility of the state. In unusual circumstances, people should fully cooperate with the security forces. Part of the problem in FATA is that there is a degree of distrust in terms of the perceived unwillingness of the state to give up the strategic depth policy in Afghanistan. This perception makes many people reluctant to trust the state. The state needs to take concerted measures all over FATA to beat that perception.

The IDPs from Mohmand must not be forced to leave the camp. Let us not forget that the people of Mohmand Agency, like people from elsewhere in FATA, are paying the torturous price for the military establishment’s policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan. The IDPs lives have first been destroyed and now they seem to have been abandoned by the state and society.

Pakistan is a UN member and has signed the UN Human Rights Declaration. It is therefore its obligation to treat the IDPs as per the UN standards of human rights. In this context, I would request the president of Pakistan, the media and civil society organisations to help stop the forced expulsion of the IDPs and make sure all their genuine concerns are appropriately addressed.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. She can be reached at bergen34@yahoo.com

Source: Daily Times