Pakistan’s refugees: after the exodus

June 9, 2009

The Pakistan Army may have driven the Taliban out of Swat but the refugees who fled to escape the military offensive are still in limbo.

Aid agencies are calling on the government to make sure that basic services are restored for people trying to return home after the offensive. They are also saying that landmines and other unexploded weapons pose an additional risk and say public areas – especially around schools, hospitals and markets – must be cleared of ordnance immediately.

Dawn newspaper quoted a military spokesman as saying that the army was ready to remain in Swat indefinitely to provide security for the people in Swat, which had been overrun by Taliban militants before the offensive.

‘The army will stay in the area till a sense of security among the people is revived, a credible defence system by law enforcement agencies put in place and the possibility of terrorists hiding in the mountains coming back to launch a second phase of insurgency is obviated. This will not take less than a year,’ it quoted the spokesman as saying.

But in an op-ed in The News, defence analyst Ikram Sehgal urges the government to do more to help the returning refugees, not least because enough Taliban insurgents escaped the offensive to threaten a guerrilla war that could destabilise the population further.

“One must counter civilian guerrilla activity by winning over the hearts and minds of the local population, in the present insecure circumstances that will be a hard sell. The prime mission must be to restore the civil administration as soon as possible,” he writes.

“While on the ground, the troops have performed above and beyond the call of duty in the tactical sense, in the strategic sense we may have created conditions that spell a disaster in the looming,” he adds. “We are in trouble. No, let me correct that, we are in deep trouble. Islamabad, we have a problem!”

The refugees are not only facing problems in camps or staying with relatives in crowded homes, but have also run into hostility in other parts of Pakistan.

“Politically they must go back. If they do not, there will be a political explosion,” according to U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Urging other countries to provide money to help the refugees, he said that, “in the end we are going to need several billion dollars for this small part of Pakistan.”

And the Swat operation was just the start of what could be a much bigger offensive against the Taliban.

(Photos: refugees at Yar Hussain camp/Akhtar Soomro)


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Richard Holbrooke
Urging other countries to provide money to help the refugees, he said that, ”in the end we are going to need several billion dollars for this small part of Pakistan.”

-Richard, if you break it you pay for it. Lives and properties have been shattered in that part of Pakistan. You need to get your butts out of Afghanistan real quick because that’s what adding to problems in my country. You cold blooded killers cant even repay for a single drop of blood of our brave soldiers, many of whom laid down their lives to protect our freedom.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

If the dentist below is not lying, it is a bad news that troubled IDP are troubled further and that too on the basis of ethnicity at this time.

“Dr Awab Alvi, a dentist based in Karachi who is playing an important role in raising funds for the refugees, highlights another very serious problem. “The crisis,” he wrote to me, “is complicated by the fact that political forces in Sindh and Punjab have refused entry to the refugees into their provinces. This is based on ethnic hatred for the Pathans [Swatis]. The reality is that, internally displaced people (IDPs) are discouraged, harassed, and being treated unfairly.”

Mr. Holbrooke:
@”Public opinion is solidifying behind the government. People are really fed up with what the Taliban and the other extremists have done,” Richard Holbrooke told Reuters shortly after arriving in the United States from Pakistan.”
says Mr. Holbrooke

Here is from India:
Indian public is behind Indian government since last 20yrs for acting against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism using your own American and Brits’, China’s and lately FoP’s money. Indian people are really fed up with the Pakistan and its terrorists, exported into India (labeled as non-state actors when caught and Kashmiri freedom fightors when not caught), for the damage they have done to India including J&K.”

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

“Indian public is behind Indian government since last 20yrs for acting against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism using your own American and Brits’, China’s and lately FoP’s money……… ”
First of all the topic is “Pakistan’s refugees” not India’s indigestion. Secondly the solution lies in plebiscite as promised to Kashmiri people. Give them the right to choose as any decent democracy would do.

Posted by babag | Report as abusive


The Taliban is just another facet of home grown Pak Army militantism that is fast going to become the world’s problem at some point.

It is sad that the brave soldiers and many villagers have to give their lives, it is the foolish men like Rt. Lt Gen. Hamid Gul and many others like him who have fostered, nurtured, trained and fed propaganda to poor uneducated people who become Militants on behalf of the Pak Army to fight and destablize both Afghanistan and India.

There is NO good Taliban or BAD Taliban, they are common criminals with no regards for your constitution or your laws. On the Eastern side you guys have the LeT the JuD and HuM, some more examples of proxy army projects, which are one day going to turn on Pakistan, the way the Taliban have.

Please do not insult Richard Holbrooke, he is a hallmark individual who was key to many successful negotiations.

The cold blooded killers are the short sighted men in uniform in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and the ISI, who created, friendshipped armed and trained these “non-state actors” and “miscreants”.

It is therefore logical for any reasonable and sane person to point their fingers of blame at Pakistan itself. You guys created this militant monster and now it is coming home.

I will pray to GOD that no harm comes to anymore Pakistani soldiers or innocent civilians, it is not their fault to suffer needlessly and they do deserve aid and our help.

At the end of the day, the militant problem, MUST be rectified. These people are a threat to everybody who wants to live a happy and productive life.

But one thing that has to happen, is the planners, creators and nurturers of these Taliban, Let, JuD, HuM and other “miscreants” and “non-state” actors must be brought to justice to pay for their part in training people to become militants and engage in criminal behavior.

If India was asked for aid, I am sure that it would not refuse people in suffering.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive


It is a refreshing and favorable turn of events that the people of Pakistan are resisting the Taliban and backing actions by the government.

We are interested to see what will happen to the commonly known “charities” or “proxy armies” on the eastern front, will their members become legitimized Pak Army men in uniform, or will they follow in the path of the Taliban, or will they be allowed to operate with full autonomy?

It is interesting now, because since Pakistan wants a Kashmir solution, this will require Pakistan to dismantle and breakup the training camps. If Pakistan does the sensible thing and cleans up the proxy army infrasture on the eastern side, will we see this same situation, where the militants on the eastern side attack Pakistani itself in retaliation?

I have a feeling before things get better they are going to get much worse.

The people of Pakistan and soldiers on the ground deserve the world’s support for fighting militantism.

It is for the better that Pakistan rids itself of militantism and join the path of prosperity like India has.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

Nawaz Sharif from Punjab visited a few IDP camps and talked to people and promised to raise their certain problems with the PM. Last morning I was listening on TV to Shazia Marri, Sindh Information Minister and IDPs are not banned to enter Sindh. People in Pakistan are doing their utmost to help their displaced brothers from Swat. The whole nation supports the Army, all politicians back the military offensive. The soldiers are laying down their lives to protect our freedom. For the first time I see a sense of unity among Pakistanis. But surely, the challenge is huge, as evident by the Pearl Continental , Peshawar blast. I am not with Rajeev here on IDPs being discriminated on the basis of ethnicity.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

according to U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke. Urging other countries to provide money to help the refugees, he said that, ”in the end we are going to need several billion dollars for this small part of Pakistan.”

Yes Mr. Holbrooke, the world indeed must help out the IDPs in Pakistan but instead of directing the funds towards the Pakistani Govt, they should be directed towards a special UN team which should administer this mission. Pakistan has a proven track record of using the funds which it receives for humanitarian purposes, for funding & training its ‘non-state actors’ & conducting terror-related activities against its neighbors. As an American tax-payer, I would like to be assured that my hard earned tax dollars will indeed be used to help out the suffering IDPs in Pakistan & not for the funding of terror groups like LeT.

Posted by Mortal | Report as abusive

Links supporting Rajeev’s claim above

“PAKISTAN: IDPs from NWFP Revive ‘Outsider’ Fears in Karachi” 7130

“Punjab, Sindh criticised for banning IDPs’ entry ” -content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/prov inces/16-punjab-sindh-criticised-for-ban ning-idps-entry-hs-11

Posted by chirkut | Report as abusive

Why do indians always try and get their 2 cents in every issue relating to the indians feel and what they think is irrelevant to this situation right now. I give the pakistanis credit, they are facing a situation right now like no one else in the world is. its is easy for most indians to sit there in their call centers and listening to bollywood songs and trying to tell what the pakistanis to do.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

My heart and prayers go to the victims, the refugees and all who must watch helplessly once again while the corrupt government of my country unleashes more lies and wars against other nations—Human Beings.

We Americans are not all evil. We are historically naive and we have been fighting for our freedom through out our history. the same tyrants have poisoned, murdered and destroyed us and our families. I for one find no merit in war for dollars, resources or greed. I do not believe that these wars are based in ethnicity, they are of control, greed and another attempt to try to destroy God. The wicked of this planet truly seek to destroy the Believers and Knowers of the One True Creator. The humble people are the closest and their hearts are the Thrown of the Great Potential.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

Its frustrating to see ignorant Pakistani people like you thinking that Indians spent their life listening to bollywood music. Please make a decent attempt to hide your ignorance.


For anything that happens in Pakistan, India faces very serious consequences. As they say, one can choose friends and but not neighbors. And India is paying very heavy price for being your neighbor.

Pakistanis simply dont understand the meaning of democracy considering that none of the generation in last 60 yrs have seen two consecutive elections and hearing them making a demand of plebiscite in Kashmir invites our pity. Please remember that Indian occupied kashmir has democracy – wont say much about Pakistan.

Every problem in Pakistan has its root in misguided policies of previous dictators who used Pakistanis as their pawn and crushed their aspirations. So much so that, present generation simple does not have any hope for future and find their refuge in India centric hatred.

Needless to say, ground for Taliban was all set to proper.

Today, when Taliban is hurting themselves, they have realized the extend of the problem and but now its too late for them.

It is no surprise that now pakistanis blame India and Isreal for all the trouble. But fact is, Pakistan is too insignificant for both these countries to warrant developing any plan to destroy it. Your own dictators have one a better job.

This discussion will never end. But bottom line is sooner Pakistani youth realize that they hold the ultimate solution to all internal problems better it is for all others including Indians to help you bounce back.

But till that happens ….. all that people like @hassan can do is ask Indians to shut up…. but any guess who is bigger looser in this game?

Posted by shreeneewas | Report as abusive

babag and Hasan:
@First of all the topic is “Pakistan’s refugees” not India’s indigestion.
– Posted by babag
–I thought India and Pakistan are trying to recongnize that terrorism is the common enemy. Hasan, IDPs are not unique as you said. IDPs in Pakistan or Kashmiri Pundits are examples of refugees in their own land and deserve equal compassion. Uniqueness lies in the fact that Pak IDPs are the victims of Taliban, a monster created by its own govt. Babag, when the monster is striking your home, you should start to call “India’s indigestion” as “terrorism against India”.

@ Secondly the solution lies in plebiscite as promised to Kashmiri people. Give them the right to choose as any decent democracy would do.
–Charity begins at home. Look at the status of Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir. Part 7(2) of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974, a sham document, says “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” So this constitution prohibits what you are asking. Anyone who says Azad Kashmir is not part of Pakistan stands disqualified for running for elective office. On the one hand, the Pakistan government says that U.N. Security Council resolutions must apply and On the other, the constitution prohibits it. Do not fool yourself and the Kashmiris. But I guess in your view all is hunky dory in POK.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Thanks Chirkut for posting those links.

@I am not with Rajeev here on IDPs being discriminated on the basis of ethnicity.
– Posted by Umair

Umair: I am with you. but some IDPs and social workers feel so. Here is the original link. a/no-optimism-yet-pakistani_b_212560.htm l

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Rajeev, what Dr. Awab says is absolutely correct without doubt. He is a personal friend and citizen journalist.
I am a journalist at Express News based in Karachi. For the past 4 weeks, almost every other day there have been strike calls and violence on the streets by Nationalist/ Ethnic parties in the city (MQM, Jeay Sindh, Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party etc) calling for the barring of entry of all Internally Displaced Persons into Sindh.
If you would like to read reports of anti IDP movements, you can log onto,, etc and check archives of ‘Karachi’.
This is indeed based on a deep prejudice and ethnic hate against the Pathan population of Pakistan, not just of Swat.

Posted by Tanya Mirza | Report as abusive

@I am not with Rajeev here on IDPs being discriminated on the basis of ethnicity.
– Posted by Umair

IDPs are definately discriminated on the basis of ethnicity, Pakistani media is hosting talk shows about this issue. Kal Tak, Live with Talat, Bolta Pakistan and Capiltal talk they are had one show each on this discrimination. Worst case was with sikhs, In a radio interview one of our Canadian MP who visited Pakistan during swat operation, told that Sikhs were racially discriminated and denied the access of tents. Eventually these sikhs went to Gurdwaras for shelter where they were treated much better than refugee camps.

By the way I think this discrimination is valid and obvious. Why would Sindis or Punjabis let millions of people in THEIR mainstream when there is already chaos in Pakistan. Economy is sinking and blasts occur daily. What should we expect from them, to care for their own lives or care for refugees.

Posted by punjabiyaar | Report as abusive

Its a pity to see poor people suffer. The bureaucrats, technocrats who created these terrorists organizations are to blame for all the sins committed against these people. Pakistani’s should stand up and revolt… till they remain blind to this fact, they will suffer in ignorance and at the hands of both the army and the talibs and the lashkars (when peace eventually returns)

Posted by Jerry | Report as abusive

@Rajeev, what Dr. Awab says is absolutely correct without doubt. He is a personal friend and citizen journalist.”
-Posted by Tanya Mirza
@This is indeed based on a deep prejudice and ethnic hate against the Pathan population of Pakistan, not just of Swat.”
-Posted by Tanya Mirza

Tanya: Thanks for your post and confirming. I have visited some websites and I see a general resentment by Pathans that Punjabis/MQM look down upon them……One guy was appreciating Dr. Awab’s efforts. It is unfortunate that IDPs they are facing double trouble. On the websites, as usual these unhappy Pathans are doubted as non-Pakistanis. The least the Pashtun IDPs (or anyone in that place) deserve is an acknowledgement of their suferings. With short-sightedness of Pak politicians, it is not hard to speculate that this operation will not go down well with the Pashtuns. Good and bad policy at this time can bridge and widen the ethnic gap.

Umair: I hope you are noticing. Did you get a chance to visit.

comments at: crisis-a-tragedy-of-errors-and-cover-ups -hrcp

Also: “A tragedy of errors and Cover-ups – The IDPs and outcome of military actions in FATA and Malakand Division” By HRCP  /a-tragedy-of-errors-and-cover-ups-the- idps-and-outcome-of-military-actions-in- fata-and-malakand-division/

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Let’s back up and see why this battle really broke out. The pakistani government negotiated with terrorists, who in the first place were attacking their homeland which in turn called for this major offensive. The Pakistani government created their own quagmire. The only blood thirsty ones are the extremists. The ones who beat women and cut off the heads of the innocent. What I can’t figure out is why every unit of the great nation of Pakistan has not been mobilized to counter these modern day Nazis.

I don’t want to sound like a hardliner but how can you negotiate with animals like this. Erase the problem and yes of course help the civilians. In WWII cities had to be destroyed to rid the world of the worst evil history has seen. We are not far from seeing that kind of evil again in the Taliban, Al-Q, and anyone on their level. Killing in the name of religion. I have never heard such an obsurd term. God bless all who suffer and the ones who will at the hands of these animals.

Posted by Mr.C | Report as abusive

The refugee crisis is quickly exposing the ethnic and religious fault lines in Pakistan. If the government does not deal with the crisis swiftly and decisively, it is in for a decade of turmoil.

I fear, however, that the Pakistani state is simply not setup to deal with the crisis. The Army knows how to drop bombs, but isn’t all that skilled at rehabilitation or even cautious enough to avoid needless destruction in the first place. As usual, the ‘charities’ will step into the breach and cultivate another generation or violent radicals filled with hatred leaving Pakistan to be condemned to turmoil for another decade or more.

No amount of money can reverse this trend. It’s going to take some serious effort on the part of individual Pakistanis to resolve the issue. They will have to open their homes, share their food and provide for these refugees. And as long as their help is contingent on race, religion and class, there will be many left behind who can be taken advantage of.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

“The Army knows how to drop bombs, but isn’t all that skilled at rehabilitation or even cautious enough to avoid needless destruction in the first place. ”

this time you are off base. Pakistan Army has always conducted rehabilitation and relief efforts and reconstruction and nation building projects. No matter if its an earthquake or flood, the Army has always played its role. Same with the current military offensive, the COAS has ordered ground commanders to avoid civil casualties even if it means putting their own lives at risk. So being a Pakistani and someone who has a much stronger affiliation with Pakistan Army, you will have to take my word for now.

So far, all you in the west could come up was finding faults with Pakistan. Now is there anything you guys can also do? your performance in Afghanistan is much more dismal, with all the mechanized units, equipment and resources at your disposal. Pakistan Army is still doing much better.

And seriously, if you want to know the rehabilitation skills and reputation of Pakistan Army, go try find some US Army personnel or UN peacekeeping personnel who served when Pak Army batallions were deployed in mid 90s in Bosnia and Somalia as peace keepers. You will know the kind of respect they enjoyed among local population due to their spirit of sacrifice and rehabilitation efforts. Setting up medical camps to treat the sick, rehabilitating Bosnian refugees from their own rations and salaries. Even in Somalia, inspecting warlord weapons caches and doing most dangerous work. And speak to the US colleagues and ask them how did the black hawk incident went and Pakistan Army stepped in for the rescue and evacuation.
Now how about the coward Dutch? and their UN commander surrendering the UN safe areas to the war criminal Ratko mladic resulting in Srebrenica Massacre.

Keith, we Pakistanis have a superb reputation in nation building and rehabilitation. Our benchmarks cant even matched or surpassed by you Canadians or Dutch/europeans. I hope next time you dont state something demonstrating your lack of knowledge.

Now i know where the problem is, you guys just criticize PA, thats all. Stop whinning and do some fighting in Kandahar, there is much work to do.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive


Just to clarify myself, are people unnecessarily complaiing that Punjab and Sindh does not allow IDP entry (registered)? ISPR is not the best media for seeking the truth behind such matters. You saw earlier posts on this and also:  /dawn-to-dusk-our-sindh-my-karachi/

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

The valiant people of the Frontier hosted their brethren in their homes, mosques, schools and grounds. Now the Swati refugees are going back.

Posted by Aamir Ali | Report as abusive