Catastrophe if aid not ‘quickly forthcoming’, says Pakistani media

June 22nd, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 22 (IANS) With the Pakistani military’s anti-Taliban operations in the northwest displacing 3.8 million civilians, the country was “staring a catastrophe full in the face” and many refugees would start “dying very soon” unless international aid was not “quickly forthcoming”, an editorial in a leading English daily warned Monday.
Another maintained that unless the government showed the political will to change the policies that allowed the creation of the militant-Taliban nexus in the first place, Pakistan risks adding the issue of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the Afghan refugee crisis that remains unresolved despite the passage of three decades.

“We are staring a catastrophe full in the face and unless money to support work with the IDPs is quickly forthcoming we are perhaps going to see a lot of people dying very soon. Dig deep, dig fast and dig big,” said an editorial in The News headlined “Empty pockets”.

It cited a press release issued by the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) for its figures of displaced in the military’s operations that entered their 57th day Monday.

Of the 3.8 million refugees, about 150,000 are in camps and the rest - by far the majority - are living with relatives or in makeshift accommodation.

“Describing this as a human catastrophe does no justice to the scale of the problem faced by the government, provincial and federal, and the national and international agencies that are struggling to provide relief services,” the editorial contended.

Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster, aid agencies now face what is being described as the worst funding-shortfall for any major disaster in the last 10 years, the editorial said, adding: “Simply, they are running out of money and unless their pockets are refilled soon they are going to grind to a halt.”

It also noted that nine major aid agencies have warned that their crisis of funding is here-and-now, saying they needed $42 million to provide emergency supplies for those currently displaced.

Noting that the scale of the international response to the calamity “in no way matches its size” the editorial also depreciated the fact that the Muslim world “has hitherto been as slow as everybody else” but that the United Arab Emirates had announced assistance of $30 million.

According to Dawn, once the fighting stops, the government must demonstrate the administrative resolve to reconstruct the battle-ravaged areas, which includes setting up education and health facilities and creating employment opportunities.

“It must also demonstrate the ability to rehabilitate the IDPs. Most importantly, the government must show the political will to change policies that allowed the creation of the militant-Taliban nexus in the first place.

“Otherwise, Pakistan risks adding the IDPs issue to the Afghan refugee crisis which remains unresolved despite the passage of three decades, and of continuing to create circumstances that stoke extremism,” said the editorial, headlined “IDPs: no solution in sight”.

The military says some 1,500 Taliban have so far been killed in the fighting in the Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts of NWFP.

The fighting has now spread to South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan.

South Waziristan is the headquarters of Baitullah Mehsud, who heads the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella group of various Taliban groups operating in the country.

Mehsud is also accused of having a hand in the Dec 27, 2007, gun and bomb attack that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she left a political rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi adjacent to Islamabad.

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