Rehabilitating Pakistan’s IDPs

Cross post

Pakistan Army in June 15th 2014, moved into FATA to clear the area of terrorists. This led to mass displacement of residents leading to added burden on Pakistan economy already trying to struggle with nearly two million displaced when military operations were conducted in Swat in 2009. Added to this is resettlement of the displaced resulting from floods of 2010 across a huge area of Pakistan hitting roughly 20 million people.  According to FDMA (FATA Disaster Management Authority) 87, 778 families of North Waziristan are registered duly as displaced.  Besides this, a daily newspaper reports nearly a million fled to Afghanistan. (Quoting Foreign Policy January 16, 2015)

Whereas, the rehabilitation should have been the first priority of the government, only a paltry amount of Rs 500 million was approved in 2014 for the purpose. (Dawn Newspaper, June 18, 2014)  Though later, funds and support has come from donor agencies, friendly countries and loans, the work is cut out for the government. It is timely implementation of this project that is need of the day.

In my many an Op-Ed I have always stated that military operations are a part of multidimensional mechanisms that must be put in place. This includes reconstruction of homes, revival of civic amenities, education, health facilities, job opportunities and speedy justice to name a few.  If one recalls, NAP (National Action Plan) among its must do, states: ‘ keeping the rehabilitation of IDPs as the top-most priority, administrative and development reforms in FATA will be expedited.’


Interestingly, some extremist outfits are providing relief facilities to the IDPs – The Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which changed its name to FIF (Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation), has volunteers moving through camp, providing ease to the IDPs. “The organization has over 200 volunteers distributing aid across Bannu, with 25 ambulances on standby. And it is not just JuD that is free to operate in this region. Just half a kilometer before the sports complex, a large banner in blood-red color bears the name of Masood Azhar, and calls him the Ameer-ul-Mujahideen. The camp, which provides water and medical facilities, also has a queue of people waiting to see the doctor.” (Dawn Newspaper, July 4, 2014) This is, without reservations a volatile situation. These people living in poverty, displaced from their homes can be a fertile breeding ground for recruits.  The International Crisis Group in 2009 rightly notes, “prohibit Jihadi groups banned under the Anti-Terrorism Law, including those operating under changed names, from participating in relief efforts.” This is as applicable today as it was in 2009.

The military operation in FATA has to pass through many phases. First is the weeding out of extremists. Then ‘holding’ the place to ensure it is clean of the extremist factor. The third is to rebuild the infrastructure. According to a report sent via a private source who has just returned from North Waziristan, “Infrastructure is simply destroyed including markets and residents. Now how it is implemented and reorganized to offer opportunities for the returnees will take some time. This is the in-between period where returnees do not want to go back because nothing is available and lot of restrictions are imposed in terms of moving around for any business purpose. They are afraid because bulk items are smuggled and through Afghan market being cheaper. Swat had different dynamics where all the commodities were available including water, good weather conditions and education level was way better. These issues need understanding. In FATA these people can’t survive like this. One of the failures of Mohmand Agency return was that major business is based marble factory and there is no electricity / water. Then why one should go back for dead business. In Bajaur where cultivation is major porting and again tube wells were powerless. North Waziristan residents are mainly traders and at the moment the infrastructure and clear passage for trade is not available. Same in case in Bara where authorities are asking so much documentation that they are least interested to re set up the market or business.”

The fourth and most testing is the transfer of power to the civil government in due course of time. “New markets being constructed in Miran Shah, Mir Ali, and other places too. The accessibility is getting better or restoring back however, the threat exists and locals are not very much comfortable to go back due to suffer reasons including security. The main challenge will be when return of the IDPs will be completed with thinning out of military and taking over by civil government. This will take some good time to create tense free environment back,” writes another source on ground.

‘More than 300,000 families have been displaced from their homes in the tribal areas, mostly from North Waziristan.’(Pakistan Today, January 10, 2015) However, once the Army steps back, the mechanisms of civil structure need to be in place, oiled and operating to ensure a safe environment.  Having a strong, well-trained and well-equipped police force is the backbone of security structure. Unfortunately, inadequate attention has been given to developing a quality police force-although in some situations, it has shown exceptional capability in dealing with the issue at hand.

How to make the police force in FATA effective is something of crucial importance.

According to a report, this will involve, “rehabilitation of Levies facilities (posts, pickets), the provision of equipment and training and the establishment of correctional facilities.” However, major reforms to upgrade police structure should be the first priority including the nature of training imparted. This requires financial commitment, which must be made; provision should be made from counter-terrorism funds. ‘Specialized counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency training for selected junior and middle ranking police officers in reputed international law enforcement training institutions,” will go a long way in improving the ability of police force in FATA to keep the area terrorist free. (Role of Pakistan Police in Counterinsurgency:  Brookings Counterinsurgency and Pakistan Paper Series No 5)

Like Pakistan Army, who was thrown into WOT within its borders, was not geared to fight such a war initially-likewise, police force in Pakistan is not trained in counterterrorism combat. The ability of the Army to fight WOT is different today. However, same cannot be said of the police force in FATA. “Lack of police expertise in countering the growing extremist menace is undermining the stability of the Pakistani state and claiming thousands of lives in terrorist attacks. This shortcoming is catastrophic, as counterterrorism will be part of the portfolio of the Pakistani police for years to come.” (Special Report by United States Institute of Peace) Asking Sri Lankan experts to train police force in FATA makes imminent sense as Sri Lanka has fought a civil war for over 25 years and prevailed over it.

Reading through President Obama’s Policy Options in Pakistan’s FATA, (By Hassan Abbas) I came across a very out-of-box suggestion that I share here: “The state should adopt a special focus on FATA’s youths as one of its top priorities in order to delink them from the violent circumstances to which they are accustomed. This could be done by making major investments in schools, vocational training, and incentives for starting small businesses. These youths grew up listening to the legendary tales of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets and, in that light, many of them saw the Arab and Central Asian fighters as gallant warriors and heroes. Traditional norms of hospitality (according to Pashtunwali code) further encouraged them to continue to look after and even defend these foreigners when Pakistan’s security forces began searching for them.”

The people of North Waziristan must be actively involved in policing their ground- by smart data provision to law maintaining authorities.

Unless and until a strong police force is established that is trained in counterterrorism strategies, the crucial step of taking over reigns from the Army may be a long time in coming!


The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: and tweets at @yasmeen_9.





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