By Niala Mohammad & Arshad Mohmand
“I brought my two sick daughters from Mir Ali to Bannu on motorcycle, their mother followed us by foot. My 6 month old daughter died on the way, I could not get her help in time because of the curfew.” Dilnawaz an IDP from North Waziristan
There are half a million IDPs from North Waziristan, more than half of which are women and children. The majority of IDPs have been directed towards Bannu District in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province, where the main IDP camp and distribution center has been set up. However, many IDPs fleeing the Pakistani Military operation Zarb-i-Azeb in North Waziristan have headed to other areas within Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province such as Karak, DI Khan, and Lakki Marwat to stay with host families as opposed to camps. Other provinces in Pakistan have vague policies regarding the entry of IDPs. Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab provinces have purportedly made it nearly impossible for the entry of the displaced North Waziristan people. But officials from these provinces have denied such accusations.
As a Citizen of Pakistan, I Am Entitled to…
Displaced persons from North Waziristan travel to Bannu Sports Complex where they wait in the scorching heat for hours to be given their rations which include a World Food Program (WFP) package and monthly stipend from the government of Pakistan via the Pakistan’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON). There is only one distribution counter that caters to the thousands of IDPs standing in line, which is only open from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. If IDPs are unable to be tended to within that time frame they stand in line again the next day in hopes that someone will be able to help them.
The UNICEF-WFP package includes; flour (24 kg), oil (5.5 kg), salt, sugar, black tea, rice, lentils (5 kg), a package of biscuits for families with children and a package of dates especially for the month of Ramadan. And nonfood items include; a water cooler, plastic glasses and plates, bed sheets, and blankets.
The Government of Pakistan is currently distributing 12,000 Rs monthly to each IDP. However the initial package promised by the Government of Pakistan was 15,000 (breakdown: 7,000 food items, 5,000 nonfood items and 3,000 for rent). More recently Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the IDP ration to be raised to 20,000 Rs with an additional bonus of 20,000 Rs for the month of Ramadan per Pakistani registration card. However, this plan has yet to be implemented.
However the relief packages and the stipend are only given to those who have a Pakistani National Identity Card (NIC). Sadly, limited access to government institutions, lack of education and awareness has incapacitated many tribal people from obtaining proper documentation, including National Identity Cards. Hence many are turned away empty handed and left to the mercy of local charitable organizations and host families.
Filling the Void
Local charities and organizations have established a strong presence in Bannu. Extremist organizations have especially been active, seizing the opportunity to use the Bannu Sports Complex as a potential recruitment ground for future “jihadists”. Banned organizations such as Jamat-e-Dawa run under the name Falah e Insaniyat Foundation are actively involved in helping IDPs registered as well as non-registered. They are filling the void left by the Pakistani Government and international organizations and are paving their way for the future of extremism.
No Medical Facilities on Site
There are no medical facilities at Bannu Sports Complex or the main IDP campsite. However there are three local hospitals Khalifa Gul Nawaz Teaching Hospital, Women & Children Hospital Bannu, and District Head Quarter Hospital Bannu that are facilitating IDPs that walk in for Polio vaccinations. The Women & Children Hospital Bannu told VOA Deewa that there has been an overwhelming amount of women (approximately 1,000) who have come in due to miscarriages. The doctors stated that the miscarriages were mostly caused by the constant jerking motions throughout the vigorously long journey.
Khost Welcomes You
Meanwhile, neighboring Afghanistan has stated that they are ready to take in the people of North Waziristan-a turn in tide for Pakistan who views the offer as a ploy. In fact, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province’s Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan, has asked the Governor of Khost Province in Afghanistan not to give refuge the people of North Waziristan, claiming the offer is “inappropriate”. The Governor of Khost Province Abdul Jabbar Naeemi told VOA Deewa that there were 5, 000 households registered, 10, 000 households in process of registration and many more flowing in daily. He also stated that the majority of North Waziristan people who have crossed the border into Khost are staying with host families rather than camps. He also mentioned that the refugees coming in from North Waziristan are carefully filtered to ensure terrorists are not crossing into Afghanistan. IDPs who have taken refuge in Khost told VOA Deewa that are grateful to Afghanistan for taking them in during a time when they are being turned away from their own countrymen.
Link for VOA Deewa’s Nasser Kakar interview with Khost Province Governor Abdul Jabbar Naeemi