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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2423

ICG says IDPs from swat a challenge to Pakistan, calls for long term solutions

By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune

New Delhi, 06 June, (Asiantribune.com): International Crisis Group, the Brussels based think tank, has cautioned that the displaced persons from Swat region posed a serious challenge to Pakistan.

“The challenge for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government and international actors is to make relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts responsive to needs and empower local communities in Malakand Division”, the ICG said in its latest situation report.

It cautioned that failure to do address the issue would ‘reverse’ any gains on the battlefield and ‘boost’ radical Islamist groups.

‘The military’s use of heavy force in the ongoing operations, failure to address the full cost to civilians and refusal to allow full civilian and humanitarian access to the conflict zones has already been counter-productive’, the ICG said at the very outset.

It pointed out that public, particularly those directly affected, was increasingly mistrustful of a military that has, in the past, swung between ‘short-sighted appeasement’ deals with militants and the ‘use of haphazard’ force.

‘While there is still broad public and political support for moving against the Taliban, it could erode if civilian casualties are high and the response to IDPs’ needs is inadequate. Indeed, it will not be long before the IDPs demand greater accountability from those responsible for their displacement and assurances of a viable return’, the ICG report said.

Excerpts from the report

Almost four years after they responded poorly to the October 2005 earthquake in NWFP and 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), overly centralised state relief organs remain ill-equipped to deal with large-scale humanitarian crises. Likewise, despite the transition to civilian rule in February 2008, the military continues to dominate key institutions, further undermining civilian capacity. Relief and reconstruction efforts must ultimately reestablish and strengthen the link between Malakand’s citizens and the state, severed by rising militancy and the military-devised accord between the Awami National Party (ANP)-led NWFP government and the Taliban-linked Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Moham­madi (TNSM) to impose Sharia (Islamic law) in the Malakand area, through the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, which President Asif Ali Zardari signed on 13 April 2009.

As they did in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake, religious extremist groups, while opposing the military campaign, are exploiting relief efforts to advance their agenda. Communities displaced by a badly planned war may be especially vulnerable to jihadi indoctrination. The crisis, however, also presents an opportunity to win hearts and minds of millions of Pakistanis in NWFP, and more specifically in Malakand Division, who have suffered at the hands of the Taliban. Many of them fled the area even before the current operations began because of Taliban abuses, including murder and rape.

Mounting opposition from the religious lobby may give the military an opening to again enter into a compromise with the militants, as it has in earlier campaigns. The federal and provincial governments must resist any such efforts and assert civilian control over counter-insurgency policy, relief and reconstruction. Instituting civilian oversight and scrutiny is vital to retaining popular support for the struggle against violent extremism.

The international community should help build civilian capacity to respond to the humanitarian crisis and also counsel the military against negotiating another deal that would again allow religious extremists more space to recruit and spread Taliban control.

ICG prescription for the Pakistan government

devise a blueprint for reconstruction efforts, including revitalising war-shattered agricultural and tourism sectors;

develop mechanisms that will enable IDP communities to hold officials accountable for the distribution of assistance;

prohibit jihadi groups banned under the Anti-Terrorism Law, including those operating under changed names, from participating in relief efforts;

prioritise police training and other mechanisms to enhance the capacity of civilian law enforcement agencies to maintain security after the military operation ends and bring militant and local criminal networks and allied serving or retired district officials to justice;

rescind immediately the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009, reaffirm the jurisdication of Malakand’s civil courts, the Peshawar High Court and the Supreme Court and abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulations and the Nizam-e-Adl 1999; and

build on political and public support for confronting militancy in NWFP by implementing without delay long-term political and constitutional reforms in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), of which Malakand is a part, as well as in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), so as to incorporate their districts and tribal agencies, respectively, into NWFP, with full provincial rights.

ICG has a check list ready for the international community:

urge a humanitarian pause in fighting to allow much-needed assistance to non-combatants in conflict zones, to permit them to flee and to account for civilian casualties, with the timeframe dependent on assessment of needs and available logistical and other resources and material support, as determined by the provincial government and international and local humanitarian agencies;

ensure that relief and reconstruction are civilian-led and empower displaced communities to determine their own needs and priorities;

prioritize the relief and rehabilitation of IDPs, particularly those living outside government camps, through cash transfer programs that provide income support, payment of school tuition and paid vocational training;

support Pakistan civilian-led plans for return of IDPs to their communities with reconstruction programs that incorporate support for the provincial government and help build the capacity of civilian police and advance justice reform with new training, equipment and mentors; and

encourage long-term political and constitutional reforms in PATA and FATA through support for comprehensive governance, stabilization and rural development programs.

-Asian Tribune -

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