Editor's Note: Axis of Logic Columnist, Talha Mujaddidi interviewed two men who participated in relief work for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in the NWFP of Pakistan to learn what is actually taking place on the ground among the refugees. Among other things, note that these interviews disclose a reality that is at odds with the glowing western media reports about the success of relief operations conducted by the Pakistan government. Also note the important difference between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban are known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The western media tends to simply call the latter, "the Taliban" which implicates the Afghan in "terrorism". The results of his interview below are followed by a June 29 IRIN report on the pressures on the hosts of the IDPs who are housing refugees. The hosts themselves are often poor and struggle to meet the needs of their own families.
- Les Blough, Editor
Pakistani women prepare an evening meal under lantern light in Swat.
Recently, I interviewed two of my friends (Ali and Ahmed*) who have worked inside the IDP relief camps. These friends went to IDP camps in early July and since then many IDPs have moved back to their homes in Swat, Malakand and Buner area. Many other refugees have not yet been able to return home, but the situation is improving at the moment. The lack of funds is still is a big problem for the people and the government because the costs of rebuilding entire towns, villages and infrastructure are enormous.
Before we get into the interviews which follow, it is important that the reader know something about the Pathans. The vast Majority of the people living in NWFP (North West Frontier Province are Pathans). Pathans are an ethnic group that speaks the Pashto language. Pathans, or Pushtoon, are also the majority population of Afghanistan. Pushtoons are able fighters and accustomed to living under harsh climatic conditions. Pushtoons were part of most armies that ruled the region and the Indian Sub-continent and they are also staunch Muslims.
Pushtoons have contributed a great deal to the development and prosperity of the Pakistan. Many of Pakistan's prominent personalities have been Pushtoon. Pushtoons for the most part follow their own tribal laws and customs, and they are very strict about those laws. To the Western world it seems confusing when Pushtoons fight with one another, but these are easily understood as any group struggles for internal control. It's also important to understand that they have have many tribal laws and customs, which have nothing to do with Islam but rather, are based on their tribal laws and Jirga (council of leaders). Western pressure, western backed NGO's, military action, political pressure, or other such urbane machinations cannot force the Pushtoons to change these laws or to amend them. Pushtoons are also the backbone of the Pakistan Army, the most powerful institution of Pakistan. Pathans are proficient with the use of modern technology and equipment and they are innovative in new business and customs but they will not alter their tribal codes or laws.
The Pathans are staunchly religious and don't think of Afghanistan as a foreign country because Afghanistan has a majority population of Pushtoons. The Pushtoons are strongly opposed to the U.S.-led war and they consider the U.S. occupation force to be a repetition of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pushtoons are also unhappy with the Pakistan Government because both the current Zardari government and the earlier Musharraf government are puppets of the United States. They also view the rest of the Pakistani elite class and politicians and the majority of the Pustoon politicians to be corrupt and Pro-U.S. for their own self interest.
TM = Talha Mujaddidi, Axis of Logic Columnist
RW = Relief Workers being interviewed.
Identification and work
TM:Thank you for agreeing to these interviews. Let me begin by asking where you are from and what area you visited when working with the IDPs?
RW:We are from Karachi and we were helping in the IDP camps in Swat, Mardan, which hosts the highest number of IDPs, and in the Nowshera area of IDP Camps.
TM:Were you working there as relief workers, in construction or the military?