Pakistan: from refugee exodus to high-tech drones

May 8, 2009

With Pakistan launching what the country’s Daily Times calls an “all-out war” against the Taliban, more than 500,000 people have fled the fighting in the northwest, bringing to more than a million those displaced since August, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.After apparently giving the Taliban enough rope to hang themselves, by offering a peace deal in the Swat valley which the government said they then reneged upon, the government for now seems to have won enough popular backing to launch its offensive.But to succeed in defeating the Taliban, the government must also be ready with a strategy to rebuild shattered lives if the mood in the northwest is not to turn sour, Dawn newspaper says. It quotes defence analyst Ikram Sehgal as estimating the military could take up to two months to conclude its campaign, and that dealing with the impact on civilians will require more than 10 times the one billion rupees (12 million dollars) the government has so far announced.In a separate article, it says that refugees are already upset about the behaviour of both the Taliban and the military. ’We are frightened of the Taliban and the army. If they want to fight, they should kill each other, they should not take refuge in our homes,” it quotes an 18-year-old girl as saying.Both Pakistan’s The News International newspaper and the blog Changing up Pakistan warn against the onset of compassion fatigue, both for  the sake of the people affected and to make sure refugee camps do not turn into recruiting grounds for the Taliban.”If the militants can provide services and offer more viable options for IDPs than the state, that is a dangerous phenomenon. The government and international agencies must therefore do more to relieve the plight of the ever-increasing number of displaced persons in Pakistan, not just for humanitarian purposes, but because we cannot afford to let the Taliban win any more,” Changing up Pakistan says.In the meantime, more questions are being raised about the U.S. administration’s policy of using unmanned drone aircraft to fire missiles on Pakistan’s tribal areas. The missile attacks, meant to target militant leaders and disrupt al Qaeda’s capabilities, cause civilian casualties, alienate Pakistanis who see them as an invasion of sovereignty and add to a perception that Pakistan is fighting “America’s war” in one place, while being bombed by American planes in another.Foreign Policy Journal quotes U.S. Congressman Ron Paul as criticising the Obama administration for continuing the drone missile attacks first started under President George W. Bush. “We are bombing a sovereign country,” it quotes him as saying. “Where do we get the authority to do that? Did the Pakistani government give us written permission? Did the Congress give us written permission to expand the war and start bombing in Pakistan?” he asked.

It adds that he said there are “many, many thousands of Pashtuns that are right smack in the middle, getting killed by our bombs, and then we wonder why they object to our policies over there. How do you win the hearts and minds of these people if we’re seen as invaders and occupies?”

Dawn newspaper also urges an end to the drone attacks in a passionately worded editorial.

“The justification offered earlier was that Pakistan appeared helpless against the rising tide of militancy and terrorism. But now the army has launched renewed offensives in the militant-infested areas and reports suggest that gains are being achieved. Meanwhile, public opinion is turning against the militants, with many in the citizenry now demanding that no stone be left unturned in bringing them to book. In this situation, the continuing U.S. drone incursions are robbing our security forces of some of their moral legitimacy and are, in fact, undermining the war effort,” it says.”Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army and other security forces continue to suffer heavy casualties in the battles under way on our western borders. These losses cannot help but be juxtaposed with the fact that the U.S. uses unmanned drones to fight without putting any of its soldiers at risk. It may soon be asked whether Afghan or Pakistani lives are less precious than those of the Americans.”Since the United States never officially acknowledges the CIA-operated drone attacks, it is hard to get a clear picture of where the policy stands. But Britain’s Daily Telegraph earlier this week quoted sources close to the Obama administration as saying the missile strikes were being re-evaluated because of their adverse affect on public opinion and value to the Taliban as a propaganda tool.Finally, B. Raman, formerly at Indian’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) intelligence agency, has an interesting perspective on the troubles in Pakistan’s tribal areas in this article.The Americans, he says, have got to stop being so heavy-handed and consider the grievances of the Pashtun people caught up in the middle of the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban. “The Pashtun anger is the root cause of the mushrooming Taliban organisations right across the Pashtun belt,” he writes. ”Instead of trying to understand the Pashtun anger and to mitigate it, President Barack Obama, his advisers and aides have been fuelling it further through their insensitive and thoughtless statements and comments, which tend to project the Pashtuns as a whole as accomplices of Al Qaeda, paint an apocalyptic characterisation of the developments in the Pashtun belt and unnecessarily over-stress the role of the security forces in dealing with the violence resulting from the Pashtun anger.”(Reuters photos of refugees/Faisal Mahmood)


RajeevI forgot for a moment your grandparents hailed from Narowal. They must have gone through the time and would have been refugees for a while. I think you must atleast show some compassion towards the plight of those refugees who had to flee the fighting.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

Hassan,The chance to settle Kashmir issue was missed early on. The leaders of both India and Pakistan had that chance until 1960. If it had not become an issue of the ego, I am sure Kashmir issue would have been resolved. A lot of things have happened over the years that have built layers and layers of sediment over it. India is a relatively milder country. Look at the way Pakistan handled East Pakistan or Sri Lanka is handling its Tamils or China handled those who sought freedom in 1991.Today, Pakistan is fighting its own people in Swat. They claim 500 odd militants have died. No one knows how many really lost their lives. India does the same in Kashmir. Militants have infiltrated and are using humans as shields. And the military goes after them and a lot of innocents die in the bargain. There is one difference though. Pakistan has 500000 refugees pouring out of the region. In Kashmir, one only sees Hindu pundits leaving as refugees. It makes no sense does it? Here is a Hindu dominated military taking on Pakistani trained insurgents. And Hindus are coming out as refugees. Can you give some thought on that?Anyway, I’d love to see a peaceful resolution to Kashmir. But the conditions around it have changed dramatically. To settle the Kashmir issue, we will have to rewind to the past which is not possible. Now both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons. Both hate each other passionately. Pakistan is an expert on insurgency and proxy war. India is an expert on counter insurgency, having dealt with them all these years. People are dying in the cross fire. If Pakistani military’s actions in Swat are understood as protecting the nation, then so are Indian military’s actions in Kashmir.A new generation of Indians and Pakistanis have replaced the old one. We have to see what their sentiments are. Ideally speaking, from a personal stand point, I’d love to allow Kashmir to be an independent state. But I am just one individual with my personal opinion. If a referendum is taken across the nation, my vote will be one of the handful in favor of such a desire. But in a democracy, majority votes decide what matters and everyone has to stick by it after the decision is made. I am used to it all these years. If a referendum is held in India regarding Kashmir, I can bet with you that no one will recognize it as separate from the Indian union. Having spent an enormous amount of money and soldiers’ lives for protecting Kashmir, 99.99% Indians would favor Kashmir as an integral part of India. I can say whatever I want, but what counts is what the people desire. The best compromise that people might prefer is to accept the LoC as an international border and be done with it.Kashmir would not have burnt the way it did, if Pakistan had desisted from sending in Pashtuns, foreign nationals and unemployed and frustrated youth from their side with full military commando style training and launched unrest. Kashmiris are sitting on the wall due to the fear of these insurgents. They respect a democratic India and its protection to the Sunni Wahabist rule that is itching to spread into Kashmir.Too much water has flowed under the bridge. Peace will return if Pakistan agrees to settle Kashmir issue with India once in for all, with the LoC as an international border. India will not allow anything beyond that and Indian public will never allow anything to be agreed on Pakistan’s terms.Though this discussion is irrelevant to the main topic here, I had to clarify with Mr. Hassan for wasting his tears. There are the Kurdish, the Armenians, the Tamils, the people in Darfur etc to cry for. Please focus your kindness there. Kashmir will be peaceful if Pakistan stops meddling there.


mauryan,unfortunatelly your failed attempt to try and justiy the kashmir was a disaster. you mentioned that if there was a referedum in india to vote on the kashmir situation the out come would be 99.9% in favor against it being a seperate state. well the word “duh” comes to mind.who is india to decide on the future of a state that it has no bearing over. you are going to sit there and actually say that you spent enourmous amount of money and blood “protecting” kashmir?? if anything india along with pakistan have made the situation there worse. both coutries fight over it and want to add it as another slum to their already filthy nations. why don’t you have kashmiris decide their own future, WITHOUT the indian army interfereing in their elections, they you will see the real outcome.and you are wrong kashmir would not have burned the way it did if india did not try to confuse it wtih gujrat and try and kill everyone.insurgency only rises when there is an occupying force (see iraq, afghanista, palestine) so what did u expect the kashmiris to do? let’s also note the fact that it was the kashmirs themselves who pushed the extremist out, it wasn’t india and it wasn’t pakistan. it clear to see that its the kashmiris who have been rational in all of this. its funny that pakistani and indians go at it with each other so much yet, both act exactly the same way. i guess the difference is that one wears a dot on their head and the other a turban. both sit there and think they are a tough power but its clear to see that both are just slum dogs.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

@RajeevI forgot for a moment your grandparents hailed from Narowal. They must have gone through the time and would have been refugees for a while. I think you must atleast show some compassion towards the plight of those refugees who had to flee the fighting.- Posted by UmairUmair: I think no one sane person will lack compassion against refugees. Read my very first post again. Here it is copy/pasted:”"”"”It is enecouraging to see that finally COAS Kayani vowed that “The Pakistan Army will employ requisite resources to ensure a decisive ascendancy over the Taliban”. From the action going on, this seems serious not fooling around this time. Pak should make it the final war ever needed against Taliban in all the territories of Pakistan. Because if it is left half done, Taliban will come back with vengeance. But the million displaced as refugee is a huge problem. There is a need to give humanitarian aid right away with high efficiency. Refugees should not be allowed to fall for aid from militants any way. Drones should be paused and americans need to take realtime decisions rather than showing tube-light effect in decision making. They are being thick headed. Time for PAK and USA to get public support right now.”"”"”

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

While trying to work out how to answer some of the comments above, I came across the following quote from the French philosopher Simone Weil:”The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing.”If you look at how many of the comments veered away from the subject you can see what she means.I’m not expecting anyone to change the situation of the refugees, only saying that they deserve attention (at the very minimum enough respect to acknowledge their existence.)The comparison with refugees in Sri Lanka makes no sense to me. A mother worrying about feeding her children in Pakistan doesn’t worry any more or less because a mother in another country is worrying about the same thing. And as someone already mentioned, this is a Pakistan blog.I agree there are many other issues to discuss and will try to start a new thread tomorrow. But in the meantime, remember this is a post about the refugees.Myra

Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive

Hassan writes: “unfortunatelly your failed attempt to try and justiy the kashmir was a disaster. you mentioned that if there was a referedum in india to vote on the kashmir situation the out come would be 99.9% in favor against it being a seperate state. well the word “duh” comes to mind.who is india to decide on the future of a state that it has no bearing over.”I am with you 100% for Kashmiri’s right to decide their future. I am for it for every community in the world. I support the Kurdish people. I support the Tamils. I support the Armenians. I support the Afghans, the Balochis, the Sindhis and so on. But I do not control geo-politics. I have no power, only opinions. My opinions are different from others and I am glad I have the right to express it.We are looking at the reality today and trying to see how damage can be minimized with all parties can come to a compromise. In the case of Kashmir, it is impossible to make either India or Pakistan vacate their policies on Kashmir. They have gone to wars over this piece of land. They are fighting a wasted war on top of a glacier that is of no use to anyone. Political solutions have been derailed by Pakistan. They do not want any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue. If resolution was found, the enemy disappears and the justification to generate religious robots to wage proxy wars disappears as well. I feel that the Kashmir issue has been left burning just to keep the war engines running. You resolve Kashmir and the engine implodes.So we can only look at the minimum compromise where the parties involved can go home without losing their faces. That is to recognize the LoC as a border, sign treaties for trust, verification etc and go home. Kashmiris will have to live divided between the two countries for a while. If Pakistan’s efforts in Swat fail and their country falls apart, may be we can look at Kashmir again. But right now, things are where they are.


Myra“The comparison with refugees in Sri Lanka makes no sense to me….this is a Pakistan blog.”— Yeah, so these are Pakistani refugees. What more can someone say?

Posted by anup | Report as abusive

Myraa country bombing its own civilians in the name of eliminationg terrorism.Time to give them freedom and if more suited to merge with Afghanistan.No more refugees from bombing campaigne.


Hassan,Since you talk about Kashmir, I hope you can look at Kashmir with objectivity & not through a Pakistani lens. Kashmir was absolutely peaceful & prosperous till the late 80′s with all Kashmiris (Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc) living happily together. I went there in 1988 as a kid & there were no problems, whatsoever. So what happened in the late 80′s to change this situation almost overnight? It is a well documented fact that after the Afghan war was over & the Russians & the Americans went back home, the Pakistani establishment decided to use the idle Mujahadeen in fighting proxy wars against India in Kashmir & implement Zia ul Haq’s defined policy of ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts’. They created groups like the LeT & JeM & infiltrated thousands of militants along the LoC, into Indian Kashmir. That’s when all hell broke lose & the Indian army was compelled to deploy forces to fight them. Now, I do accept that mistakes might have been committed by Indian forces in dealing with the civilians in Kashmir but a lions share of the of the blame for the plight of the Kasmiris goes to Pakistan for creating havoc in the valley through its proxy armies. And while you are talking about injustices against Kasmiris, please don’t lose sight of the atrocities committed against countless Kashmiri hindus & sikhs who were killed by Pakistan trained terrorists & many more, who have been displaced for decades.

Posted by Mortal | Report as abusive

mortal, i don’t need you to tell me what the pakistanis have done to shias, because i am a shia. so i don’t think i need a computer nerd to tell me about history.Hassan, you don’t know me, so please refrain from passing judgment against me. You don’t know whether I’m a computer nerd or someone who is very much capable of kicking the a$$es of the likes of you. This is a blog & we are here to debate on issues in a civil manner & not to pass personal judgments about each other.

Posted by Mortal | Report as abusive

Its funny to hear Indians giving lectures about Pakistan to Pakistanis, because Indians read some books and newspapers. The twisted views of Pakistan that Indians have on this blog is due to the hateful media and low-class books they have been reading about Pakistan.I appeal to my Pakistani brethren to support the Swati refugees by donating at Hidaya Foundation or Mercy Corps, which are helping out in the IDP camps.I also support Pakistan army in its fight against these India supported Taliban gangsters.


@Its funny to hear Indians giving lectures about Pakistan to Pakistanis, because Indians read some books and newspapers. The twisted views of Pakistan that Indians have on this blog is due to the hateful media and low-class books they have been reading about Pakistan.- Posted by Aamir AliAamir Ali: This is what is Pakistanis are taught. A very good ubiased report to cool you down. At the end of reading this report, you will feel that you should have addressed this post to yourself. I am here for your inputs. orton/S tate%20of%20Curr&TextBooks.pdf@I also support Pakistan army in its fight against these India supported Taliban gangsters.-Sure you do support. Regarding India’s role: how do you know? Again the same misinformation problem and sitting in US and the product of one Indian and one Pakistani parent saying this. You are a genius. Why would India feed these terrorists. India hypothetically should help Baluchs or the Balawaristan (Pakistan Occupied Gilgit Baltistan) for the human atrocities and suppression. As a Shia you should be careful in supporting Pakistani Army.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Aaamir: orton/S tate%20of%20Curr&TextBooks.pdf

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

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