PAKISTAN’S INTERNALLY DISPLACED: Distribution is key. Plus: Women’s voices from camps in Mardan

In this post: Update by Naeem Sadiq,report from Mardan camps by Bushra Khaliq and an appeal by the Muslim Canadian Congress

1. Email from Naeem Sadiq:

There are numerous reports pouring in that highlight the scale  and the severity of the crisis and trauma being faced by the displaced persons of Malakand.  Just received a very frantic and moving phone call from a friend in Mardan.  He is a part of a team consisting of six outstanding  young engineers,  who took leave from their jobs, collected funds and rations and drove down to the camps in Mardan.  He was overwhelmed by  what he saw, and his version corroborates with the reports of  many other independent reporters, who have reported on similar lines.  If one can summarize the situation as it stands today.

  1. The scale of displacement  (any thing between 2 and 2.5 million people) is so large and its associated demands of  accommodation, food, health, and other basic needs so great in volume and spread that it is  simply beyond this government to handle.
  2. Some 80-90 percent of  the displaced persons are sheltered at places other than the formal camps set up by the government. These are those who received no support and are facing the greatest hardship.
  3. The few who are accommodated in camps have started to receive basic  support and services.
  4. The condition of the  large majority sheltered  in schools, hujras or accommodated by locals in their small homes is absolutely pathetic.  The focus of aid and attention needs to be urgently  shifted to this category.
  5. There is enough food and support material that is forthcoming.  Its distribution and management is inefficient and unfair.  Some of this stuff is already on sale in the local market.
  6. The visits of VIPs are unwelcome and a cause of great nuisance.  The VIPs are only interested in photographs and  media coverage.  They stop the traffic,  and the entire camp management shifts its focus from its basic job to showing the VIPs  a miniscule portion of the relief effort . (while the real problem lies elsewhere.)
  7. Unless we shift our attention to the 80% displaced persons who  have received no aid so far, we shall  not just loose this battle of hearts and minds but also breed anger and hostility amongst a very large population.
  8. The logistics of such a large scale requires very high professional management skills. Political speeches  and slogans run out of their shelf life in the first few days. We need to request  professors from places like LUMS and IBA to go down to Mardan and put into practice what they typically teach their students. The multinational companies could be requested to volunteer  their top managers for professional management of each location.

Pakistan has a challenge whose dimension is larger than what we have ever been exposed to. This challenge needs every citizen and group to come together.  If we fail, we would fail not because there was not enough food or blankets, but because we did not know how to manage a distribution system with efficiency, fairness and dignity.

Naeem’s response to my question about contact details to post out with his note, where people can donate or volunteer: “There are dozens , if not hundreds of agencies and groups who are collecting funds and other relief goods. SUNGI (Omar Asghar Khan’s foundation), Edhi, and almost all political parties, and religious groups are in the field.  Then there are indvidual groups (such as the team of six engineers I mentioned),  Dr. Awab and his team, Hissar Foundation and many others not known to me who are doing extremely good job.  Distribution is the key issue.”

Response to Naeem’s note by Imran Ali posted to the May 12th Group: “Your analysis is on the dot sir. I took a week off to be there. No preparation too many agencies and no coordination. Sir I also found that water and electricity are huge problems, as is the total disillusionment with Pakistan army and government. Taliban are condemned as villain no 2 but a very distant second. There are many heroic assistance efforts but they are not coordinated. Phones communication and coordination are the problem. The operation must finish in two months otherwise it will overwhelm us. The army is confident that it will.”

2. WOMEN’S VOICES – REPORT FROM CAMPS IN MARDAN

Bushra Khaliq, General Secretary, Women Workers Help Line, Lahore, who  visited three of camps set up in Mardan, housing some 32,725 persons, mostly from the working class.  Their findings in a nutshell, in their words:

  • Religious norms & oppressive tribal values lock women inside tents
  • More than 100 pregnant mothers in Sheikh Yasin camp at mercy of God
  • Filthy joint toilets may cause spread diseases among IDPs
  • Taliban, Army and US, all three adding woes to women of Swat

Most of the people they spoke to were against both Americans and Taliban. They believe that the army operation was launched under US pressure  and that the Army is not sincere in crushing the Taliban. They want some deadline regarding the end of the operation as they want to return home at the earliest.

Every family has been provided with a tent but life is miserable for them in the sizzling heat (over 40 degree Celsius) – a situation made worse by no electricity coupled with poor amenities. There were few dispensaries – Diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, eye sores, throat infection are widespread “due to the consumption of unsafe drinking water, smell from filthy toilets and inappropriate food, etc…. Every body has a story to tell but (most) pathetic are the stories of women inside these tents.”

“The good thing is that small children are duly engaged in educational activities. Unicef is providing primary educational service to these children, including school bags and books. Since government schools are closed in Mardan, and teachers were free so these govt school teachers have offered their services to teach children in tent schools.”

Full text of message plus pix at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/socialist_pakistan_news/message/15146

3. Note from Muslim Canadian Congress – Pls pass on to friends & family in Canada

May 19, 2009

MCC condemns Taliban onslaught in Pakistan;
Growing humanitarian crisis needs Canada’s attention

www.muslimcanadiancongress.org

(couldn’t find this note on their website but it was posted to me by someone in Canada)

TORONTO – The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has expressed its deep concern with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Pakistan where the country’s army is battling the Taliban insurgency. The MCC welcomes the long overdue initiative of the Pakistan Armed Forces to restore the writ of the
democratically elected government. However, the displacement of more than a million people as a result of the Taliban insurgency is becoming a humanitarian crisis, that needs to be tackled on an urgent basis by the international community before these camps become recruiting grounds for the next generation of the Taliban.

The MCC has urged the Canadian Government to take the lead in providing aid to the internally displaced persons (IDPs). If Western governments do not step in with humanitarian aid to these IDPs, the vacuum will be filled by Islamist groups who have already started setting up offices inside these
camps.

Regarding the current relief efforts, MCC president, Hasan Mahmud, has expressed reservations about some of the donations that are being contributed towards the relief efforts for the displaced citizens of Swat by Islamist groups in Canada.

“After the devastating effects of the 2005 earthquake in Northern Pakistan, Islamist charities like the Jamaat Dawa and others operated by Jamaat-e-Islami exploited a tragedy to collect funds which were then used to further their extremist ideology and provide more fodder to the vast network of militias operating under the Deobandi-Wahabi banner.”

A similar initiative by Pakistan’s right-wing political parties (Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat Dawa) is currently underway. These groups and individuals raise funds for humanitarian purposes in Pakistan and abroad, as well as seek to portray Taliban as a group that is redressing social and judicial grievances. Despite these portrayals, we have seen nothing but destruction of Pushtoon culture, barbaric massacres of opponents and the Pushtoon Shia population, destruction of educational institutions and imposition of medieval barbarism on hapless population in all areas where Taliban held sway.

Canadians should be wary that their humanitarian donations are strictly allocated to the Red Cross and UN and not to Islamist organizations and individuals like the above mentioned, whose subsidiaries are using it to fund militants that are attacking Canadian troops in the neighbouring country of Afghanistan.

For further information, please call Hasan Mahmud, President of the MCC at
(416) 742-5975

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One Response

  1. how come I can’t read your blog on my blackberry (bold 9000)???

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