50,000 displaced in Pakistan’s northwest: UN

May 2nd, 2009 - 5:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 2 (IANS) Some 50,000 people have been displaced by the military action against the Taliban in Pakistan’s restive northwest, UN officials say.
However, the Al-Khidmat Foundation, an NGO working in the Lower Dir district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has placed the figure at 70,000.

Both figures are much higher than that given by the paramilitary Frontier Corps that put the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at around 2,000, Dawn reported Saturday.

On its part, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has expressed concern over what it termed exaggerated figures of displaced persons being quoted by different NGOs.

Presiding over a meeting of local and international humanitarian agencies and NGOs Friday, NDMA member (operations) Jamil Ahmed stressed the need for verifying the numbers to avoid unnecessary hype and alarm.”

“The government is not only fully aware of the situation but also capable of meeting any challenge,” he said while reviewing the situation of IDPs in the Buner and Swat districts of the NWFP, as also in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

According to NGO Helping Hands Relief and Development, around 500 displaced families have taken shelter in four temporary camps in Lower Dir - 150 families in the Government Degree College Timergara, 100 in the Government Commerce College, 60 in the Tameer-i-Nau School and 100 in different buildings in Timergara Bazaar.

Timergara is the district headquarters of Lower Dir.

A large number of displaced people are also living in houses of their relatives in various other cities of the district that are not affected by the security forces’ action.

The camps are facing shortage of essential food items, drinking water and medicines, Dawn said.

The UN has made arrangements to accommodate another 1,000 displaced families at the Jalozai camp in Nowshera. The camp is currently accommodating about 7,892 displaced families.

The military action began Sunday after the Taliban reneged on an accord to restore peace in Swat, Lower Dir and Buner and four other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division.

Under the accord, Sharia laws were to be imposed in the Malakand division in return for the Taliban laying down their arms. Instead, the militants moved south from their Swat headquarters and occupied the Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.

A military operation is underway in Buner too to evict the militants.

Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace accord with the NWFP government suspended the deal after the military operation began.

On Friday, he held an initial round of talks with the provincial government on bringing the accord back on track. Both sides said the discussions were positive.

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