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ZARB-E-AZB & THE IDPs | Handling the Aftermath

Great and venerated are the IDPs who have sacrificed their today for the tomorrow of the whole nation. They left their homes and businesses for a greater cause of securing Pakistan. They were braving all the atrocities and brutalities of terrorists to lead their lives. They coexisted with the militants but never embraced their bigotry and bestiality. But, when called, they decided to support Pakistan Army to get rid of the terrorism scourge once and for all.

It is a known fact that the heinous activities of terrorists had spread in every nook and cranny of the country and the state’s ideology and sovereignty were at great risk. The Government of Pakistan, despite incessant terrorist attacks, had been harping on ‘peace mantra’ since months to give them a chance to enter into the mainstream by relinquishing their activities and laying down arms. But, this goodwill gestures was taken as government’s weakness. So, the talks collapsed sans any result. The Karachi Airport attack was the last nail in the coffin of all peace efforts.

Finally, country’s civilian and military leadership decided to cleanse the holy land of Pakistan from these bestial elements and resolved to curb the menace of terrorism with all of its manifestations.

So, the Pak Army launched a full-fledged military operation namely Zarb-e-Azab — Azab is a sword of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) — on the 15th of June this year. Astute army strategists carved out a well-thought-out plan to annihilate the terrorist outfits and their hideouts in the tribal region of North Waziristan.

No doubt, the operation caused many difficulties for the IDPS as they were rendered homeless. They came out to be settled at camps in different parts of the KP province. These displaced people did not wish to be uprooted from the beautiful valleys and hills they used to call home. Millions of people were taken out of their houses to be settled into camps. Unfortunately, initially other provinces — Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan — did not allow these internally displaced persons (IDPs) to enter into their territories. But, owing to strong criticism from civil society, the respective chief ministers were left with no choice but to open up their arms and doors for their oppressed countrymen. In Hyderabad, on July 22, a strike was called by an Alliance of Sindhi Nationalist Parties to protest against influx of IDPs. Balochistan feared demographic change and Punjab desired to settle them in KP, not on its own territory. However, government of the Punjab announced the construction of 2,000 houses, a model university, a hospital and a school in North Waziristan.

Government of Pakistan had announced that all needed efforts and resources would be spared for the IDPs. However, ineptness and apathy on part of civil administration undermined all arrangements.

At present, approximately, 25,000 displaced families are living in various government schools in KP but recently they have been asked to vacate the schools immediately. Elders from North Waziristan Agency have threatened to stage a sit-in outside the Parliament House in Islamabad if the IDPs living in schools across the province are made to relocate because the soon-to-come winter is going to increase their problems manifold.

On the Operation front, latest reports suggest that Army has successfully cleared most of the area and the operation is expected to culminate within few weeks. Pak Army has actually fought on two fronts: one on the battlefields against terrorists and other on the humanitarian grounds to alleviate the sufferings of the fellow countrymen. It has been most active force in the field for rescue and relief operations since the launch of the operation. Army Chief General Raheel Sharif also celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha with the IDPs and soldiers fighting in Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Recently Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the Miranshah area of North Waziristan Agency where he was briefed about ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb. The PM was informed that 80 per cent area of the agency had been cleared from terrorists and that army is now engaged against terrorists in Ghulam Khan area near Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The army has sealed the border so that terrorists could not escape. About one thousand terrorists have been killed in the operation so far. Pakistan Army has captured a huge quantity of arms and ammunition as well.

The on-ground situation at present demands an early clearing of the whole area thus making it possible for the IDPs to return as early as possible. The ultimate success of this operation lies in the IDPs’ speedy return, and their rehabilitation. However, there seems to be little state of preparedness on part of the government. The challenge warrants an immediate comprehensive plan without waiting for the operation’s culmination.

The whole nation must join hands to take practical measures to alleviate the sufferings of their brethren, as a joint, cumulative and cohesive strategy is needed for the complete settlement, rehabilitation and empowerment of IDPS after their return to their native areas. The displaced persons are our heroes as they sacrificed their peace and comfort for the entire nation. They have successfully defended our ‘western frontier’ for almost six decades, at the cost of their blood. So, they cannot be left unattended in this hour of distress and need. National spirit of unity at the time of independence in 1947, valour and  courage during 1965 war, passion to sacrifice for fellow countrymen after 2005 earthquake and  Islamic spirit of Mukhawat-e-Madina is much needed today because tomorrow it would be too late.

The joy of victory against the forces of evil will remain incomplete until the uprooted families return to their homes and are fully and safely rehabilitated.

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