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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

PAKISTAN: IDPs reluctant to return

PESHAWAR, 11 July 2010 (IRIN) - An ongoing UN survey of internally displaced persons from various conflicted-affected parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), adjacent to the Afghan border, has found that the main reasons they do not want to return are insecurity, damaged assets and a lack of employment opportunities.

According to a 9 July humanitarian update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 35 percent of more than 15,000 displaced families surveyed in Peshawar district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said insecurity was preventing their return to neighbouring FATA areas. Twenty-six percent cited damage to their land or housing as their reason for staying put, and 17 percent said lack of jobs.

Some 60 percent of those assessed in the ongoing inter-cluster vulnerability assessment said they had lived in Peshawar for more than a year. Fifty-three percent said they came from Bajaur and Mohmand, two of the seven agencies of FATA.

“Traditionally, these people are deeply attached to their soil. Stories rooted in their homelands are passed on from generation to generation. So any decision to stay away is a hard one,” said Peshawar-based psychologist Humaira Ahmed, a volunteer at Jalozai IDP camp outside Peshawar city.

Better life

Some IDPs said they were contemplating moving permanently from places such as Bajaur to larger cities in search of better jobs, schools and security.

“I’ve lived in Peshawar for eight months and got a job as a security guard. My employers have offered me a place to live, and while living in a single room with my wife and four children is more cramped than in our house in Bajaur, at least we know we’re safe and won’t have to flee,” Aiyaz Khan, 40, told IRIN.

He said he had returned to Bajaur a few weeks ago on his own only to find that their house in a village near Khar, the agency’s principal town, was badly damaged. In addition, he said there was “persisting tension between troops and militants”.

Khan’s wife, Naima Bibi, said she was growing accustomed to living in Peshawar and took delight in “going shopping in a supermarket with trolleys, even though my cousin and I can afford to put only a few items in them.”

Incidents such as the 9 July suicide car bombing in Mohmand, which killed at least 106 people, add to IDPs’ sense of fear and reluctance to return.

“How can we possibly take our children back to such a situation? Our duty as parents is to keep them safe,” said Aasia Bibi, a mother of five from Mohmand who now lives in Peshawar. She said their family’s land had been devastated in Mohmand and that her husband was now earning more than ever before as a van driver.

Aasia and her family, like many other IDPs, have been living with relatives. But with some money now coming in, they are looking for a flat of their own to rent “so that we can resume a proper life and not burden anyone else.”

Not all IDPs have been fortunate enough to find jobs, but that has not driven them to return. “I am penniless but safe – and that is a bonus,” Rustam Khan, displaced in Peshawar, said.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs


Copyright © IRIN 2010
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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