The humanitarian situation outside Islamabad
Other than talking about life in the Pakistani capital, which is probably not representative for the situation in the rest of the country, I would also like to tell you a bit about the problems, Pakistan is faced with at the moment.
When we talk about Pakistan, we often associate this beautiful country with conflict, suicide bombers and Taliban militants. One of the troubled areas we continuously hear on the news is Swat District, which lies in the North West Frontier Province in the north of the country. Major military operations were launched in the area this year and in May the situation came to a head. All together around 2.3 million people were forced to leave their homes and became so-called “Internally Displaced Person”, often referred to as ‘IDPs’. The difference between IDPs and refugees is that IDPs are seeking shelter in their home country, whereas refugees settle down abroad. Some of these 2.3 million people found shelter in IDP camps, however, the Pakistani people themselves seemed to be the real heroes in this dire situation. I have heard stories of people who moved their own families out of their homes or cramped them into one single room in order to offer accommodation to those, who had to leave their homes due to the conflict. More than half of the people looking for shelter were given it by their fellow Pakistanis – whether they knew each other or not.
According to government figures, more than 80 per cent of the Pakistanis who fled their homes have now returned home. However, it is not clear what these people are faced with upon their return. Their homes may be looted or destroyed, an estimated 80 percent of their crops have been lost and schools, which were also used to accommodate IDPs, have to be rehabilitated.
It is very difficult to imagine what the situation is like outside Islamabad, as the capital seems very quiet. Due to its many trees and parks and beautiful houses it makes you forget what is actually happening in this country. The Taliban are relentlessly continuing their military operation, and we hear about suicide bombs or attacks almost every day. According to news reports, the latest incident happened this Sunday, when at least 14 police recruits were killed in a suicide attack in the Swat Valley.
On Tuesday I will go out of the capital to meet some journalists and analysts to talk about the situation in the North West Frontier Province. It will probably be very eye opening for me as so far I have only seen the calm and quiet of Islamabad.
I will tell you more once I get back.