Saturday, May 9, 2009

Displaced to Army: "Finish off Taliban"

Refugee camps in Pakistan are receiving more people daily. This report from Pakistan Dawn:

UNHCR officials say since last Friday they have registered over 16,700 families or a little over 100,000 individuals. These are the fresh arrivals from Buner, Lower Dir and Swat. The earlier figures, or in UN terminology the “old caseload”, of registered individuals is of over half a million, or 556,539 to be exact. And the way influx has continued from what is increasingly looking like a war-zone, UN officials fear that figure may soon cross the one million mark.

Many of those in the camps around Mardan and Takhtbai are bitter about the way they have been forced to leave their homes in haste. A large number of them are also sceptical about the way the security forces have been handling the situation. “I am not sure if the army really wants to eliminate the Taliban,” said one angry man Sheikh Sultan.

Another joined in saying the Taliban continue to roam around in his town, but innocent people are being targeted in shelling and aerial bombing.

There is lot of hatred for the religious extremists. In fact, not a single person came forward to speak in their favour. But the IDPs were equally wary of security forces, mainly because of their inability to provide protection. Notwithstanding the army’s latest determination to go into Malakand with full force, the perception among most of the displaced people remains that this too may be a half-hearted operation.

“If the army is really serious this time, then it should it prove by its actions,” said Rehman Ullah, a refugee from Mingora.

Having lost his sister and two other close relatives in the conflict, he said they had been forced to leave all their belongings to live in these camps. “Now it’s time for the army to finish them off,” he said about the religious extremists. “But if they fail to do so, we will be constrained to believe that either they are not capable of doing it, or are not sincere about the whole affair,” quipped another IDP from Mingora.

Read the full report here.

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