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Displaced priorities
By: Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri

The current IDP crisis has yet again challenged the whole governance
process in the absence of local governments and decentralisation

According to FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), the number of
registered IDPs from North Waziristan have nearly touched 1 million
mark out of which 0.74 million (or 75 per cent) are children and women.
Interestingly, only 395 individuals (61 families) have opted to stay in
IDPs camp at Baka Khel, Bannu.

That raises a number of questions. Where are the rest of them and why
did they not opt to stay in camps? How relief is being managed for such
huge number of people who are scattered from Peshawer to Karachi? How
the host communities are coping with the additional stress on basic
services, such as housing, water, sanitation, health and livelihoods?

Which humanitarian agency is doing what? Are all the government
agencies on the same page? What is the role of banned militant outfits
in providing relief to displaced persons? And, finally, are the relief
operations as transparent as they are being claimed to be? These are
some of the questions which need to be answered to assess the whole
series of incredible challenges accompanying the IDP crisis.

The crisis of internally displaced people (IDPs) is not something new
for Pakistan. In fact, one of the very first challenges that the
nascent state of Pakistan had to face in 1947 was to accommodate the
displaced families who had migrated from India to their “new homeland”.

Lately, the country managed the IDPs of earthquake, IDPs of Swat,
IDPs of floods, and now the IDPs from North Waziristan who had been
leaving their homes due to military action.

This is in addition to the registered and non-registered Afghan
refugees, which Pakistan has been hosting for the last many decades. In
fact, there were 1.2 million displaced people in KPK before the start of
current exodus from North Waziristan after the start of operation

Let us start with the issue of registration of one million
individuals; humanitarian aid delivery and coordination. The enormous
number of IDPs and the short time within which they are not only to be
provided relief but also to be scanned for being a “potential security
threat” and to be provided a safe exit from the war zone create almost
insurmountable challenges.

A little improvement in governance and better coordination among
relief providers may enable us to avail many opportunities that this
crisis has offered. This is the best opportunity for eradication of
polio in NW through organised vaccination.

Unlike the 2008 Swat IDP crisis, a majority of NW IDPs are out of
camps but they still require shelter, food, medicine (especially polio
vaccination), feed and veterinary care for remaining livestock, and most
importantly, alternative livelihood strategies. How all of it is being

Initially, the site of the IDP camp was selected at Kashoo Bridge on
Bannu-Indus Highway Link Road at a distance of 15 Km from Bannu City.
Therefore, the activity was required to be managed by the PDMA having
their administrative jurisdiction. However, on the insistence of law
enforcing agencies, the site was shifted to Baka Khel (Frontier Region
Bannu) near Baran Dam.

FR Bannu falls under FDMA so FDMA is now handling the camp, but then
there is hardly anyone living in these camps so a number of other
federal and provincial institutions are also managing the IDPs.

The army, the state and frontier region ministry (SAFRON), the
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the FDMA, the Provincial
Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), and NADRA have engaged themselves
in relief activities. However, one cannot help noting the lack of
coordination among these agencies.

Apparently, the institutions which have nothing to do with the
humanitarian operation, are in the driving seat and have taken over the
entire operation.

The KPK chief minister and the PTI are accusing the federal
government of keeping them in dark about the timing of operation. To
them, they had never anticipated the relief requirements and were never
ready to manage the influx of hundreds of thousands IDPs in their
province. Whereas, the federal government maintains that due to
confidentiality and as part of security strategy it was not possible to
inform the KPK government about the operation Zarb-e-Azab in advance.

Both have a valid point but it shows both the parties don’t trust
each other. They can have political differences but should not
politicise the IDP crisis which may turn into a human crisis if not
managed properly.

The KPK chief minister has launched an appeal through an
advertisement on behalf of the provincial government requesting
international humanitarian organisations and NGOs to immediately
collaborate with his government to start relief programme for the IDPs.

It said that the federal government’s cash support programme being
provided to the IDPs was insufficient and it should be increased to meet
immediate expenses of the affected people and families. Besides aid,
the CM also urged support for health facilities.

However, it became clear that not only the federal and provincial
governments but CM KPK and PDMA, too, are not on the same page. The PDMA
immediately clarified that the government never launched such appeal
and everything was under control.

In the absence of a local government that could deliver, the
coordination among aid agencies is a big issue. As the IDPs have opted
out from relief camp, thus relief in the form of cash transfer through a
mobile phone SIM card is being introduced. However, the system has not
fully taken off and, thus, increasing desperation among the displaced

The confusion over relief provision is also evident. On the very same
day when the Chairman NDMA was claiming that no “humanitarian wing” of
banned organisation was allowed to engage in relief operations, the
minister of SAFRON at a seminar in SDPI said that banned outfits cannot
and should not be stopped from providing relief to IDPs, after all it is
a noble cause.

In other words, debate of “good” and “bad” Taliban is still not over.
Due to this confusion we may lose on the ideological front what our
armed forces are conquering on the battle front.

It seems that we have not learnt much from the previous crisis and
are repeating the same mistake which earlier governments made during
previous crises. People will not stay in the camp which is installed in
security sensitive area (FR Bannu). Moreover, the tents are also weather
unfriendly and don’t suit the socio-cultural values of the IDPs.

One aspects that seems to be ignored is how this crisis has affected
the food and livelihood security situation. We are talking of the IDP
crisis in a context where half of the population of Pakistan is already
food insecure, i.e., it is not able “to secure nutritious food, for all
times for everyone”. FATA and KPK are facing chronic food insecurity.
Massive displacement has not only affected the livelihood security of
IDPs but also of the host communities, thus further eroding the already
bleak situation of access to food in those areas.

The plight of IDPs reflects the poor state of governance.
Coordinating the delivery of relief measures; having plans ready
beforehand; bringing all the involved stakeholders on board; creating,
operating and maintaining organisations for disaster preparedness,
ensuring proper operation and maintenance of social service delivery
structures, — all these are facets of governance.

While the word government refers to planning and decision-making by
the state and its institutions, the notion of “governance” takes a
societal look. How are decisions made within a certain society or
nation? Who is involved in these decision-making processes and who has
which powers to decide; on which evidence is planning based and which
planning is taken as basis for decision-making? How are conflicting
views dealt with ? (Geiser and Suleri, 2010)

To me, apart from many other challenges, the current IDP crisis has
yet again challenged the whole governance (as defined above) process.
One of the many dimensions of this governance crisis is not only the
absence of local governments and decentralisation, but also the fact
that there is simply no discussion on how relief would have been managed
differently if there were local governments during current or some of
the previous crises.

The real challenge ahead is to take these insights as starting
points, and to develop, propose, and discuss feasible alternatives that
help to ensure an effective governance system suitable for the
conditions of Pakistan.

A little improvement in governance and better coordination among
relief providers may enable us to avail many opportunities that this
crisis has offered. This is the best opportunity for eradication of
polio in NW through organised vaccination. We may also use this
opportunity to bring FATA in the mainstream national development

Improving the marginalised status of FATA and bringing it at par with
other parts of Pakistan will not only provide an incentive for the IDPs
to return to their homes once the military operation is over, but will
also win their hearts and minds — thus filling in the void which
otherwise is captured by ‘good’ Talibans.


This article was originally published at:

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.