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Pakistan: Back Home And Starting A New Life

Flour delivery and distribution in an IDP Camp. Image by Olaf Kellerhoff, used under a creative commons license

Flour delivery and distribution in an IDP Camp. Image by Olaf Kellerhoff, used under a creative commons license

After nearly two months of living in squalor in temporary camps the internally displaced people (IDPs) of the Swat region of Pakistan were allowed to go back home from July 13th. Although there were several complaints of lack of proper medical facilities on the way back and there was less focus on the available transport facilities, the whole country seemingly exhaled a sigh of relief with the hope that the suffering of these displaced people would diminish when they are back home. Some IDPs however are still reluctant to commit to this exercise, as the way back is fraught with problems and the security situation is still in flux.

At Teeth Maestro Awab Alvi interviewed a district government official in Mardan about the situation on the ground, the official has requested to remain anonymous:

“With regard to the return of IDPs, he said that he had spoken with the Naib Nazim of Buner two days ago, who insisted that the conditions in the area were not suitable for anyone to live. There had been widespread destruction in the entire district. However, people wished to leave as soon as possible. They said, even if you make us a Taj Mahal here, we will not stay.”

Pak Factor took an interview of Bakhtmal, another displaced person from Swat. It tells the same story:

“If we go back we will be living in darkness as the infrastructure has been destroyed. There is no electricity or communication facility,” he said. “My fields and my livelihood have been destroyed so there will be no way that I will be able to make a living when I go back,” he explained. “This means that we will be reliant on external aid and will probably have to live in tents as our homes have been damaged and are uninhabitable.”

Pakistan Politics evaluates the journey of these IDPs back home describing the latest situation:

The most remarkable aspect of the Malakand operation is the return of displaced people. An estimated 1.8 million refugees have returned, 80 per cent back to the division and 90 per cent in Swat, confounding the doomsday predictions of many foreign observers. This would not have happened if they did not feel reassured about their safety. Public concern about the militants will not evaporate overnight, but the return of the IDPs is an important indicator of growing normalcy. Handling the displaced persons was rightly seen as a critical test of the operation. Their swift and largely orderly repatriation marks an important accomplishment.

The Jazba blog brings pleasant news for the people of Swat, a sign of returning to normalcy:

NWFP Government on Friday decided to reopen Swat Museum while all homework has been finalized in this regard. During Rah-e-Rast Operation by the Pakistan Army, Swat Museum was closed for an indefinite period of time and all the heritage of the Museum was shifted to Peshawar to safeguard it.However after complete/successful operation of the Security Forces and safe return of all IDPs, all offices have been reopened. As law and order situation is improving in Swat, NWFP Government has decided to open Swat Museum.

The government has also been claiming that a total sum of Rs 5.75 billion in cash grants have been distributed to the IDPs returning home for their rehabilitation.

Whatever may be the case, the whole exercise of displacement and return has been a great and horrible tragedy in the history of Pakistan. There is only one lesson to come out of all this, rehabilitation is by no means an easy task for any government especially on the scale that it had to be handled in Pakistan. The good news is that with many hurdles and difficulties still to come, at least many of the displaced families are now starting a new life.

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