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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

PAKISTAN: Fear of attack haunts IDPs

KOHAT, 2 July 2012 (IRIN) - There has been a sudden change of plan for Zamir Khan, 30, and his family of five currently living in Kohat, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province (KP) but originally from Khyber Agency, one of seven tribal territories along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Packed bags, including the large canvas sacks used to store bedding, as well as other bundles and cases, are being reopened and the items placed back on shelves by Zamir's wife, Marina Bibi, 26, and her eldest daughter, Shandana, eight.

Marina has tears in her eyes as she puts utensils in the corner of their one-room house which serves as her kitchen. "I had such high hopes of a future better than this - not rats running under our beds and a daily struggle to make ends meet. But I guess we will just have to make do in this rented hovel a bit longer."

Till the previous evening, Zamir Khan, an ethnic Pashtoon, had planned to move his family from Kohat to Karachi in the hope of finding a better job. Khan, who moved away from home in the Khyber Agency due to conflict between militants and troops two years ago, currently works as a labourer. He told IRIN: "I see little hope of things calming down in Khyber. I had thought our best hope was to move to a large city where more work will be available. But now I have changed my mind about going to Karachi."

Khan's change of heart is prompted by a recent incident in which seven people, most of them Pashtoons from KP were killed in an attack on a bus apparently carried out by a Sindhi nationalist group. "This has scared me. There have been attacks in Karachi as well, though this happened in another town. Perhaps it is better to stay closer to home."

Violence targeting Pashtoons has claimed hundreds of lives in Karachi over the past few years. According to the Vancouver-based Human Security Report Project, over 1,000 people were killed in ethnic violence in the city in 2010, most of them people who had moved from KP in search of work.

The tensions between Pashtoons and Mohajirs - people who settled in Pakistan, mainly Karachi, after migrating from India on partition in 1947 - linger on.

"Things are tough here for us Pastooons," Hamid Khan, a labourer in Karachi told IRIN. He said he was considering returning to Peshawar in KP.

"There is ethnic cleansing [going] on in Karachi, and also Balochistan. Political forces play a part creating a very dangerous situation," I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the Autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said from Lahore.

Ethnic violence spreading?

The spread of violence to other areas in Sindh has alarmed monitoring groups. Rehman told IRIN: "Ethnic killings, wherever they happen, spell danger. Something needs to be done urgently to bring them to an end."

Like Khan, other displaced people also feel they have nowhere to go. Muhammad Noor, from the Swat Valley area of KP, lost his small roadside café in the devastating floods that ravaged Swat in 2010. He told IRIN: "I had my farm destroyed in conflict between militants and army troops the year before that... I had thought of heading to Quetta [in Balochistan, where he has family] but safety issues concern me."

According to official figures, 31 Pashtoons have been killed in targeted killings based on ethnicity in Balochistan over the past two years.

"My family has lived here for decades. But things are not good for non-Baloch people right now. The nationalists want `settlers' from other provinces to leave," said Muhammad Hameed, a retired police official based in the Balochistan town of Khuzdar, adding that he was considering moving to the KP capital Peshawar, and had asked his adult sons to do the same.

"Talk of the attack on the bus in Sindh has spread everywhere here," Nasir Ullah, a tailor in Kohat, told IRIN.

He said that since the bus had been headed for Kohat people in the town had followed the news of its ambush with great interest.

"There are many IDPs [internally displaced persons] here who are considering what they should do and where they should go," Nasir Ullah said. "For most of them it now seems there are fewer and fewer options left open, given the fear that exists in so many places."


Copyright © IRIN 2012
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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