Pakistan’s Refugee Crisis


Pakistani refugees.jpgThough there is an outright war going on between the central government of Pakistan and the Taliban, there is also a PR battle being waged to see who will win the devotion of the Pakistani majority. Recently the Taliban overplayed their hand with stepped up suicide bombings, kidnappings and morality checkpoints which severely weakened their public support in Pakistan.
This dip in pro-Taliban sentiment granted the Pakistani government a window to act, which they did swiftly. The full force ground invasion into the Swat valley has pushed an estimated 3 million people from their homes, many of whom have settled into quickly erected refugee camps. As of now, there is still general support for the army’s effort to route out the Taliban, even among the displaced. “We’re not angry with the army over the operation against the militants. We’re fed up with the fighting,” one refugee told US envoy Richard Holbrooke who is currently in Pakistan. But there is no certainty that this support will continue. The Pakistani government and International community must seize this opportunity to secure the trust of the Pakistani people, most of whom are more interested in peace and security than ideology.
There should be a three-fold commitment to the displaced Pakistanis. Primarily, every effort should be made to meet the needs of the refugees for as long as they are in the camps. Secondly, there must be a resolve to help those who fled return safely home as soon as possible. Refugee camps, which tend to be overcrowded with restless people, are notorious breeding grounds for violence and extremism. The less time spent in refugee camps, the better for everyone. Finally, the Swat valley must be rebuilt rapidly. If the valley is left in ruins, the Taliban leaders who have scattered will simply return and prey upon the frustrations of the locals. Bridges, homes, and schools must be rebuilt. The overwhelming need is to invest in the people – not just the military – of this region.
This requires quick action not only from the Pakistani government, which is ill-equipped to care for the masses, but also from Pakistan’s allies and International Aid organizations. USAID has provided $151million to help Pakistan care for the displaced thus far and President Obama has just requested $200 million more from Congress. This increase in aid is a good step in re-prioritizing U.S. aid to Pakistan from military to civilian support. As Obama said in yesterday’s speech from Cairo, “military power alone is not going solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
— Faith Smith


9 comments on “Pakistan’s Refugee Crisis

  1. Don Bacon says:

    Afghanistan is a good example of the criminal misuse of rebuild funds. Despite massive international support for Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban in late 2001, people on the ground are dissatisfied at the level of reconstruction taking place in the country. In fact, many are of the opinion that little has been done for what they believe to be billions of dollars of international funds invested in the Central Asian nation.
    In that country 45 percent of donor funding went directly to the UN (that vast sinkhole of money), nearly 30 percent to the government, 16 percent to private contractors and only nine percent was directly given to NGOs (Non-Government Operations).
    Hillary Clinton has dubbed past Afghanistan aid efforts a ‘heartbreaking’ failure. The British charity Oxfam says large amounts of aid to war-ravaged Afghanistan are being squandered. Oxfam’s head of policy for Afghanistan, Matt Waldman says too much aid is wasted on foreign contractors who make hefty profits, employ expatriate consultants at exorbitant salaries and not deliver expected results.
    So here we go again.


  2. JohnH says:

    The whole Pakistani refugee crisis sounds like a big opportunity for Halliburton. Or for any number of corrupt Pakistani officials to parse out the work to their favorite local mini-Halliburtons.
    I would be shocked (positively) if anything constructive is done for the refugees. None of the players in the conflict, except possibly the refugees themselves, have any track record of rebuilding anything.


  3. Don Bacon says:

    I’d say that control of oil supply is certainly one factor, but since oil is sold and bought on the open market there must be other reasons, like expanding the Empire and profiting thereby.
    The US has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in this mad pursuit of oil, power and profit. Now we’re told that the resulting instability requires hundreds of millions more to reduce the suffering of the affected populations, while back in the USA over ten thousand people lose their jobs every day of the month, along with their homes and their very way of life.
    Perhaps President Obama could give a fancy speech to Americans and explain why this goes on, and on. He’s addressed the Muslim world, now address the wrong imperialist actions that the US continues to take in the real world, to the distress of millions. The explanation that the US is chasing that guy in the cave, while amusing, just doesn’t wash any longer to Americans without a job or a home..


  4. TonyForesta says:

    Sad that all this chari vari is irrelevent and moot since the powersthatbe in Amerika are bent on establishing an oil and energy corridor ( May 5, 2006, US Vice President Dick Cheney proposed construction of oil and gas pipelines under the Caspian to link Central Asian reserves to Europe via Azerbaijan and Turkey, thus bypassing both Russia and Iran.) through out the region and establishing the necessary military bases and assets to secure this corridor, with total disregard to the human costs and losses in and from the nefarious process.
    Read this this and weep.
    All the jibberish and babel about Afghanistan and Pakistan, – like the precursor in Iraq is – sadly – ALL ABOUT THE OIL!!!!


  5. Clay Thorp says:

    Obama’s speach to the Muslim world in Cairo will undoubtedly push more of Afghanistan’s people toward a more moderate approach to faith and government.
    I hope Pakistan continues to capitalize on this shift away from extremism and that such values come to be known as analagous with America’s values and hopes for Pakistan.


  6. KathleenG says:

    And Obama pushed the Pakistani government to turn up the heat. What was it that Obama said on Thursday “do unto others as you would have done unto you”
    Or how about those drones that the U.S. military has flying over Pakistan and Afghanistan killing innocent people.
    Liked Obama’s speech but many of his words were hollow


  7. pacos_gal says:

    Shelter, food, medicine, clothing. Jobs that can
    be done so people can earn some money to buy
    anything that is needed. Markets for the people
    to use the money in.
    Then when they can return home, a major clean up
    project and rebuilding project.
    If we give money to those things it could go a
    long way to helping build relations with the
    This needs to be done in Afghanistan, Iraq, any
    where that there is a need.


  8. WigWag says:

    Nicholas Schmidle, a New America Foundation Fellow, recently published a book on Pakistan that is one of the finest books I’ve read in the past several years (in any genre). The book is entitled “To Live or to Perish Forever” and it recounts Schmidle’s travels in Pakistan. The book is so good that it actually put me in mind of the best travel book ever written, “Black Lamb, Gray Falcon by Rebecca West (published in 1939).
    Not only is Schmidle incredibly brave (he meets up with some very unsavory characters) but he speaks Urdu and Persian (perhaps Pashto will be next) and his writing is extraordinarily lucid. Anyone who wants to understand events unfolding in South Asia should make reading Schmidle’s book a high priority.
    Note to Steve Clemons: If you happen to read this comment during your travels, how about some guest posts from Schmidle? (The last reference to him on your blog was in a Sameer Lalwani guest post on July 2, 2008).
    Faith Smith, in this provocative post, makes a claim similar to Schmidle when she suggests that the Taliban are overplaying their hand and beginning to lose support amongst ordinary Pakistanis including Pakistanis of Pashtun extraction.
    I can’t help but wonder if money the U.S. is spending on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan was instead diverted to development assistance in Pakistan what the results would be.
    In his book, Schmidle is actually more optimistic than most; he doesn’t think Pakistan will implode but instead thinks it will “muddle through.”
    It’s in everyone’s interest that Pakistan does “muddle through.” It’s too bad that we’re not devoting even more resources to make sure that it does.


  9. Don Bacon says:

    “We’re not angry with the army over the operation against the militants. We’re fed up with the fighting,” one refugee told US envoy Richard Holbrook.
    Well, I’ll take that to the bank (not). Quoting government employees and treating it as news ought to be illegal.
    What “one refugee” told Holbrook isn’t the whole story, of course. Pakistan is probably the most anti-American country in the world and the best thing for the US to do is to stay out, so all these “must do” actions are better left to Pakistan and international organizations. Based on past performance, however, the US will use this instability, as in other places, to increase its heavy footprint, with the Pentagon in the lead.


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