Today I have received an email message from Imtiaz Ali, Jennings Randolph Fellow United States Institute of Peace giving me detail about his Testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Imtiaz, who worked as journalist in Peshawar has given very little space to the crisis in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border. I just want to tell the US administration that millions of people of tribal areas have been displaced and thousands have been killed or maimed. Half of Bajaur Agency has been bulldozed, but Imtiaz said nothing about that crisis. The following is the message of Imtiaz sent to me through email.
This is my Testimony on July 29 before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs about "Responding to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Crisis in Pakistan."
Thank you, Senator Casey and distinguished members of the subcommittee for providing me with the opportunity to testify before you on the internally displaced persons (IDP) crisis in the Swat Valley and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan. This is a phenomenon that poses a serious threat to Pakistan and ultimately to American security interests, but if handled correctly, can be an opportunity to promote them.
I am currently a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. I am a journalist by training and have spent a great deal of time reporting on Pakistan's tribal belt and North West Frontier Province along the Afghan border. The views I express today are my own and not those of the U.S. Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policy positions.
As you know, the crisis in Pakistan is by most metrics the biggest internal displacement in recent history. According to Pakistani officials and several U.N. agencies, the number of people forced to flee since fighting began this spring between Taliban militants and the Pakistani Army is more than two million. Most of these refugees fled to the neighboring districts of Mardan and Swabi, the closest and most accessible regions still unaffected by the fighting.
A lesser-known but equally critical fact is that less than 20 percent of the IDPs took shelter in the refugee camps set up by the government and aid organizations. Instead, the majority of the IDPs have sought refuge in the homes of local Pashtun "host" families. In many of the Pashtun villages in Mardan and Swabi, elders have assembled meetings and pooled resources to provide shelter for the IDPs from Swat, despite limited resources. Tellingly, these "host families" tend not to refer to the new guests as IDPs or refugees, but as community members entitled to the benefits of the centuries-long tradition of Pashtun hospitality.
The Pakistani government did a good job responding to this crisis, especially considering its limited resources -- which is why it was compelled to solicit international aid. Though, many Pakistanis have mixed feelings about the fair distribution of aid and some other aid related concerns. However, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the people supported military operations in the Swat Valley.