Pakistan's Swat offensive and IDP crisis Thread.

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Daredevil, May 10, 2009.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Hundreds of thousands flee Pakistan fighting

    1 day ago
    MINGORA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani jets screamed over a Taliban-controlled town Friday and bombed suspected militant positions as hundreds of thousands fled in terror and other trapped residents appealed for a pause in the fighting so they could escape.

    A half a million people have either already left the Swat Valley and nearby districts or want to leave but can't because of the fighting, Pakistani officials and the U.N. say, bringing the number of people likely to be displaced due to anti-militant offensives across Pakistan's volatile northwest region to 1 million.

    Pakistan has launched at least a dozen operations in the region near the Afghan border in recent years, but most ended inconclusively and after widespread destruction and significant civilian deaths.
    The mountainous region remains a haven for al-Qaida and Taliban militants, foreign governments say.

    To end one of those protracted offensives, the government signed a peace accord in Swat that provided for Islamic law there. But it began unraveling last month when Swat Taliban fighters moved into Buner, a neighboring district just 60 miles from Islamabad.

    Following strong U.S. pressure, the Pakistani government launched its latest offensive, and the prime minister appealed for international assistance for the growing refugee crisis and vowed to defeat the militants.

    Asking for Pakistanis to support the government and the army, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani pledged Thursday night to "eliminate the elements who have destroyed the peace and calm of the nation and wanted to take Pakistan hostage at gunpoint."

    The military hailed signs of the public's mood shifting against the Taliban.
    "The public have seen their real face," Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said. "They realize their agenda goes much beyond Shariah (Islamic) courts. They have a design to expand."

    Still, the pro-Western government will face a stiff task to keep a skeptical nation behind its security forces.

    The mayor of Mardan, the main district to the south of the fighting, said an estimated 250,000 people had fled in recent days and that more were on the move. Of those, 4,500 were staying in camps, while the rest were with relatives or rented accommodation, he said.

    Pakistani officials have said up to 500,000 are expected to leave.
    On Friday, the U.N. refugee agency said that the provincial government estimates that between 150,000 and 200,000 people have arrived in safer areas of North West Frontier Province in the last few days and another 300,000 are on the move or want to leave but can't because of the fighting or curfews.

    The exodus from Swat and other nearby districts adds to the more than 500,000 already displaced by fighting elsewhere in Pakistan's volatile border region since August 2008, said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in Geneva.

    Government forces are fighting in three districts, stretching over some 400 square miles, but much of the fighting has been in the Swat Valley's main city of Mingora, a militant hub that was home to around 360,000 people before the insurgency two years ago.

    Abbas said Friday that 140 militants had been killed in the last 24 hours, adding to around 150 already reported slain. He did give any figures for civilian deaths, but witness and local media say that noncombatants have been killed.

    Tens of thousands of people remain trapped in Mingora. Some have said the Taliban are not allowing them to leave, perhaps because they want to use them as "human shields" and make the army unwilling to use force.
    "We want to leave the city, but we cannot go out because of the fighting," said one resident, Hidayat Ullah. "We will be killed, our children will be killed, our women will be killed and these Taliban will escape."
    "Kill terrorists, but don't harm us," he pleaded.

    The Associated Press: Hundreds of thousands flee Pakistan fighting
     
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  3. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Villagers trapped between Taliban and Pakistan's war machine

    Villagers trapped between Taliban and Pakistan's war machine

    The battle to drive insurgents from the Swat Valley has left refugees fearing they may never return home, reports Nick Meo from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

    When the Pakistani Army began moving its tanks and artillery for a major offensive against the Taliban in the area around the Swat Valley, Miraj Khan found himself caught between two foes.

    The farmer had been praying for deliverance from the black-turbaned gunmen for months, but liberation did not come quite as he hoped. When army shells came crashing into his village last week, he was forced to cram his family and possessions into a van and flee from the path of his would-be rescuers.

    "The operation started without warning and their shells smashed our houses and wounded so many people," he said. "It was needless. The Taliban had already gone."

    Mr Khan, 32, was standing in a refugee camp of tents that was his new home, in a field next to a motorway 40 miles north west of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. While children in grimy clothes ran between the tents, dazed adults swapped stories about the bombings they had narrowly escaped.

    Some described seeing helicopter gunships strafing villages and jets dropping bombs, others anxiously questioned new arrivals for news of missing loved ones. "Our village was so peaceful, it was like a paradise," said one. "Now it is a hell. How could this have happened?"

    Part of the answer rumbled past on the nearby motorway, where army convoys were towing giant howitzers to the front line. They had come from sprawling army bases hundreds of miles away in Kashmir, near the Indian border – where Pakistan had always expected to fight its next war.
    The convoys were going to the Swat Valley to pound the Taliban after Pakistan's leaders, under mounting pressure from Washington, finally decided to act. They did so only when guerrillas moved to within 60 miles of Islamabad.

    Unfortunately, as Mr Khan knew only too well, being rescued by the army could be worse than being left in the clutches of the Taliban.
    "A hundred people or more were injured by the shells," he said. "Some of them must have died. But we had to get away and in the confusion it was impossible to say who lived and who died."

    The refugees could see the rugged mountains of their home about 20 miles to the north, spectacular in the late afternoon light.
    The mountain valleys of Swat and Buner are loved throughout Pakistan as places of tranquillity and beauty.

    But as the destruction worsened, and the grip of the Taliban seemed to grow stronger even as the army began operations, Mr Khan wondered if he would ever be able to go home, and what would be waiting for him there.
    As he was speaking, another family of refugees arrived in an overloaded vehicle, full of young children and exhausted grandparents. They were the vanguard of an exodus that the government estimated could involve half a million people in the next few weeks. It was potentially the biggest movement of population since the partition from India in 1947, when Hindu-Muslim violence led more than seven million Muslims to cross the border into Pakistan.

    An army spokesman said the operation against the Taliban – the biggest since the insurgency started to spread in Pakistan in 2007 – was "proceeding smoothly".

    On Saturday, jet planes and helicopter gunships blasted Taliban positions around Mingora, the main city, whose hospitals reported a sharp influx of wounded civilians.

    But after more than a week of bombardments and air strikes, a few thousand lightly-armed Taliban fighters still seemed to control most of the territory they occupied when the Swat peace deal between them and the government began to break down.

    The farmers and traders who had fled with Mr Khan had little faith in the army's ability to drive the gunmen out of their beautiful valleys. One gnarled old man pointed out that the army constantly announced body counts of Taliban but rarely showed photographs of the dead, as was customary in Pakistan.

    The battle against guerrillas in mountainous Swat is a difficult one for an army that is modelled on British imperial forces, and equipped for a clash on the plains of Punjab against Indian tanks. Its whisky-swilling officers, many of whom until recently would have served for decades without hearing a shot fired in anger, have become soft.

    Due to the army's habit of interfering in politics, retired and serving officers run much of Pakistan's industry and own property empires, living in luxurious villas and enjoying agreeable social lives that do not prepare them for the rigours of guerrilla war. They fight the Taliban in the only way they know how – with air strikes, artillery bombardments and tank attacks, pounding their enemy from a distance, fearful of getting close enough to be struck by suicide bombers.

    Such firepower, combined with poor intelligence, results in high civilian casualty rates – which Taliban propaganda makes much of.
    "This is an army that was never trained in counter-insurgency, and it does not have the logistical support for such a war," said Ikram Seghal, a retired major.

    Unlike American forces across the border in Afghanistan, the Pakistan army lacks night vision technology and has only a few helicopters.

    There are plans to take army units to Kuwait for instruction in counter-insurgency by American soldiers, who have learnt hard lessons on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, but such training will take time.
    Like the rest of Pakistan's defence establishment, Major Seghal believes that the main threat remains India – despite the increasingly frantic calls from Washington to concentrate on the enemy within. He predicted that most troops would remain on the Indian border but insisted that the army would make short work of the Taliban if the politicians stopped making peace deals.

    For all its shortcomings, the army has made sacrifices in this fight. About 2,000 jawans (enlisted men) have died and thousands more have been wounded.

    The war has been a traumatic experience in other ways. Soldiers dedicated to the idea of fighting "Hindu India" resent the idea of killing fellow Muslims on their own soil.

    It is a view echoed by many of the army's bloated ranks of generals, who supported the nascent Afghan Taliban in the 1990s. Now they are battling jihadis whom they trained to fight wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir that they directed.

    Zulmay Khan, a jawan with the Frontier Corps in Peshawar, questioned the purpose of the war.

    "I do not like the Taliban but I do not want to fight against them," he said. "They are our Muslim brothers. I do not want to fight America's war."
    The problems mean that nobody expects the Pakistani Taliban to be beaten swiftly – and the fear is growing that whatever happens in the current operation, Swat will prove a self-inflicted wound that will fester for years.
    Mohammed Aurangzeb, the former princely ruler known as the Wali of Swat, was driven out of his valley after militants attacked his home. Now he lives in a large house in a smart Islamabad suburb, decked out with framed photographs of him meeting foreign royalty and Pakistani leaders.
    "With the Pakistan government and the Taliban, the people of Swat are trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea," he said. "Far more people have been killed by the army than by the Taliban during military operations."

    His ancestors fought the Mughals, Afghan raiders and one of the British expeditionary forces in which the young Winston Churchill battled against Muslim warriors.

    But it was not until the Taliban takeover that the Wali of Swat, 81, finally left for exile in Islamabad. He does not think he will be able to return.
    "I am sure that the problems of Swat will not be resolved in my lifetime. Things have gone too far for that now. There will be a lot of suffering in Swat yet."

    Villagers trapped between Taliban and Pakistan's war machine - Telegraph
     
  4. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    New influx of 800,000 IDPs expected from Swat

    By Baqir Sajjad Syed
    Sunday, 10 May, 2009 | 11:04 PM PST |

    [​IMG]
    Internally displaced men wait for food and supply rations at a UNHCR (United Nations High
    Commission for Refugees) camp in Takht Bai, about 150 km northwest of Islamabad. –Reuters
    Photo/Faisal Mahmood



    ISLAMABAD: Aid agencies on Saturday warned that the massive displacement caused by the fighting between Taliban and the government forces in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir could continue for next six months and their numbers could top eight million.

    ‘We are anticipating new IDP influx figure of 800,000 from Swat, Buner and Lower Dir, which is approximately 25 per cent of the total population of these three districts,’ a senior United Nations official told Dawn.

    According to the latest figures released by the UN and NWFP government 1,10,000 IDPs have so far registered with authorities in Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda and Kohat districts after heavy ground and air assaults against Taliban positions in the valley.

    The IDPs have come from Buner, Lower Dir, Swat and Orakzai Agency. Thousands are awaiting registration, the aid agencies say and another about 300,000 are on the move.

    According to Muslim Aid, a humanitarian agency: ‘Due to heavy fighting peoples’ movement is very limited because of life threat. People are fleeing from the areas only in curfew break.’

    Additionally reports suggest that Taliban are not allowing many people to leave the conflict zone and are holding them as human shields.

    The figures registered so far are just fraction of the people displaced because of the latest fighting as most people fleeing the conflict either live with their relatives or get a rented place instead of living in the camps because of cultural issues.

    The planning by humanitarian agencies also reflects this situation. They assume that out of the 800,000 expected IDPs only 300,000 would come to the camps, while the rest would find alternative places.

    These numbers are in addition to the 5,60,000 already in camps because of fighting in tribal areas.

    The IDP crisis in Pakistan is poised to become the largest in Pakistan with cumulative figure of old case load from Fata and new displacements from the valley expected to touch 1.3 million.

    In anticipation of the heavy influx of the IDPs the NWFP government has increased the number of registration points to 29 and has also announced simplification of the registration procedures.

    Aid workers say the registration process is painstakingly slow and poorly coordinated.

    ‘The registration activity is very difficult and IDPs are suffering due to lack of coordination, some one thousand 1000 IDPs are registered in the slow moving registration,’ said a Muslim Aid report.

    UN is in the process of reviewing its initial humanitarian response appeal of $129.8 million for the current year because of the sudden surge in the number of IDPs.

    ‘The current response plan requires substantial revision to facilitate a comprehensive and effective response to the current situation,’ said a UN official.

    The revision would cater for the possibility of increased humanitarian needs later in the year relating to new areas of conflict.


    DAWN.COM | Pakistan | New influx of 800,000 IDPs expected from Swat
     
  5. nitesh

    nitesh Mob Control Manager Stars and Ambassadors

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  6. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    ^^^
    One comment aptly describes this operation by PA:

     
  7. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Please use this thread to discuss Pakistan's Swat offensive and the ensuing unprecedented refugee crisis.
     

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