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Displaced by war on terror

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Pakistan’s military says it has suspended its operations against Taliban militants in the Bajaur tribal area on the Afghan border.

The government says this suspension of fighting is in honour of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The announcement comes as a small relief to the hundreds of thousand of people who have already been displaced by the intense fighting.

Mudassar Shah reports from the temporary camps set-up to house them.

 

Living in tents under a sweltering sun, these are the frontline victims of the war on terror.

18 months old Sohail cries out from one of the tents in a camp in Lower Deer.
His parents were killed during a military raid on Bajaur 10 days ago.

Holding back tears his eleven year old brother Sardar Khan says it can’t remember much about what happened.

“I only remember our house and school were completely destroyed. I don’t know the reason why my house is destroyed. I love my school and home.”

They walked for ten hours to reach safety in this camp.

In a matter of weeks as many as four hundred thousand people have fled from their homes.

Some are staying with friends and family.
Many are relying on temporary camps like this one and assistance from NGOs and the government.

It is a huge challenge. Many, like Siraj Guls have arrived here with almost nothing.

“It is very difficult for us to live here in this camp because it is hot and we do no have food. The cruel Pakistan army do not differentiate between the innocent and guilty. The Taliban attacks them and then runs away and hide. The army then opens fire on the innocent after that.”

Government authorities say if a military operation had not been launched the area would have been over-run by foreign militants.

Bajaur has always been one of the places suggested as a possible hiding place for Osama Bin Laden.

And as a result, many people who have fled from Bajaur feel trapped.

There is little support expressed in the camp for the local Taliban or for their foreign allies.

Taxi driver Pakistan Khan says his brother was killed by the militants last month.

“I wish somebody could ask these Taliban militants which religion teaches them to kill other people? The militants were against President Musharaf and his policies now that he is gone why are they still fighting?”

Most people here want the government to immediately stop the operation in Bajaur and to resolve the matter through dialogue instead.

Raees Khan a tribal leader who is now living in the camp says the operation is a failure.

“The army kills innocent children with cannons, missiles and gunship Helicopters and tells the media that they are killing the Taliban. Nobody confirms this and nobody cares for us. The army only kills innocent children and women and the Taliban is left untouched.”

No-one knows when it will be safe for them to go back to their villages.

The instability in the tribal areas is spreading into the rest of the country.

The Taliban has said the double suicide bombing outside Pakistan’s main arms factory last month, was in direct retaliation for the military offensive in Bajaur.

Waris Khan a poet says the government’s military operation is fuelling more violence.

“Corruption, wrong policies and extreme injustice is fuelling support for the Taliban in this area. The militants are getting stronger and the Pakistan politicians are deaf to our cries. We’ve had hostility with India for 60 years and they’ve never bombed us. Now our own government is bombing us with gunships and helicopters. Where does this cruelty and injustice come from?”

Among these tents, and in this heat, it will be an uphill battle for the government to persuade its citizens that the war against extremism is their war, too.

 

Terakhir Diperbaharui ( Senin, 20 Juli 2009 18:43 )  

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