IDPs appeal to UN for justice (image via Tariq Afghan)
As if Pakistan’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) haven’t suffered enough, forced to abandon their homes and land so military operations against militants could be carried out in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan… now they face violence from security forces. In what can only be described as the utmost hypocrisy, IDPs are lauded for their sacrifices yet attacked in what is supposed to be a place of safety. Such killing makes a nonsense of displacing people on the grounds that it is to protect their lives during conflict.
On Sunday evening a protest against conditions at a camp in Baka Khel Camp in Bannu led to the deaths of 2 IDPs with another 11 suffering injuries according to locals. Around 30,000 IDPs are said to reside in the camp, many seeking shelter following the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Asb in June 2014 in North Waziristan.
Newsweek Pakistan reported the following,
“the problem occurred in the evening when dozens of IDPs returned to the camp. Soldiers tasked with security at the entrance asked them for their gate pass, which led to an argument between the civilians and the security forces,” said Zohaib Wazeer, one of the displaced at the camp. “Other IDPs within the camp rushed to the aid of the displaced and started protesting against the security forces,” he added.
The altercation led to 2 IDPs being shot by security forces with 11 others wounded, 4 soldiers were also said to have been injured. A video was also circulating on Facebook which claimed to show dead and injured IDPs. There were concerns that the media were being prevented from entering the area to report on the incident and that IDPs were coming under attack for raising concerns over access to water. Such concerns should be handled with patience and sensitivity for their suffering not by brutal clampdown. Aggressive actions will only incite retaliation and put security at risk for all in IDP camps where there is little left to lose. Soldiers are not dealing with terrorists but ordinary civilians living in very challenging conditions, outside their normal environment, fearful of the future and tired of waiting to return home.
The following photos (related to the video) are alleged to be of wounded IDPs showing one deceased and were posted on Twitter by TV journalist Farooq Mahsud from South Waziristan.
(Images via journalist Farook Mahsud)
A tweet from Farwad Ali Shah, reporter at Express Tribune suggested 5 IDPs may have died in recent days but did not give details of cause of death,
Tribal elders along with Jameela Gilani and members of Pukhtoon S.F are now holding a protest outside Peshawar Press Club against the killing of IDPs in Baka Khel Camp. Banners were raised displaying slogans which read, “we are humans, we are innocent” “we are Pakistani not terrorist” and “stop Pashtun genocide”. Waziristan students criticised the army for killing IDPs. Images of the demonstration were posted on Twitter by Tariq Afghan, a lawyer and political scientist who works for peace, human rights and is a social activist.
“We are humans, we are innocent” (image Tariq Afghan)
Jamila Gilani holding play card with slogan “We are Pakistani not terrorist” (image Tariq Afghan)
“Stop Pashtun genocide” (image Tariq Afghan)
Waziristan students protesting against killing of innocent IDPs in Bakakhel camp. They criticised army for killing (image Tariq Afghan)
Protest against Killing of innocent IDPs in Baka Khel. Tribal chiefs ANP and PMAP workers participated (image Tariq Afghan)
Supporters of IDPs also took to social media to vent their anger and frustration under the hashtag #DisplacedPashtuns The following comments relating to displaced persons appeared on Twitter,
Humiliated & used as cannon fodder for strategic interests. Killed & injured for wanting water.
The blackout of the IDPs from the mainstream media will only aggravate the already marginalised. A dangerous precedent.
Pashtuns wake up now, stop being loyal to your killers (Pakistan).
We (Mahsud Tribe) strongly condemn the brutal act of armed forces IDPs in Bakakhel.
Bushra Gohar, a local politician and rights activist criticized further the treatment of IDPs telling AFP, “there are still over a million IDPs (internally displaced persons) living in miserable conditions away from their homes, with no signs of reconstruction or rehabilitation of their destroyed homes and livelihoods.”
Despite undertakings from Nawaz Sharif government that IDPs would be compensated for their losses and supported to rebuild their lives, those that have returned home paint a picture of ongoing struggle. Many feeling largely abandoned by authorities with little hope for the future, the level of compensation matches nowhere near what they have lost, see following link,
“Pakistan: IDPs returning home face corruption, undertakings on security and will never be fully compensated for their losses.”
IDPs have paid an enormous price for military operations and now on top of great personal sacrifice some are losing their lives at the hands of the very people assigned to protect them.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.