Mass Exodus Following Fractured Peace
I spoke with a cousin two days back and army shelling is happening around the villages that we are connected to in lower Swat. The exodus has begun ...
A humanitarian crisis is looming as hundreds of thousands of civilians flee fighting between the Taliban and government troops in the Pakistan's northwest. Officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday said that about half a million people have been displaced by the fighting in the Swat valley in the last few days. Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the UNCHR, told Al Jazeera that they had witnessed a "great many families arriving from Swat. I was in one of three refugee camps that the UNHRC has helped set up and people were arriving on trucks, rickshaws, cars, buses - any way that they can travel - and they were arriving very, very distressed," she said.
The latest exodus brings the number of people displaced in the region by sustained violence over the last few months to a million, UNHCR officials said.
From the BBC:
As jets and helicopters pounded targets in the valley, the UN said it was threatening to become one of the world's biggest displacement crises.
A full-scale offensive began on Friday, with militant strongholds hit from the air and troops conducting operations on the ground.Despite now abandoned attempts to secure a peace deal in and around Swat, the area - close to the border with Afghanistan - has long been riven by tensions. Some 550,000 people had already been displaced before the current crisis, said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond.
Consider the u-turn heres in terms of the Pakistan government's response to the rise of the Taliban. When the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, the Pakistan government was one of three countries that recognised them. When the militants took power in Swat, the Pakistan government handed them a peace deal. And now?
From the BBC:
Abdul Hai Kakar from the BBC's Urdu service in Peshawar reports: I interviewed a large number of refugees in Swabi, but I did not meet a single person who actually saw the army and the Taleban as members of opposing camps. Instead, I heard, they were "two sides of the same coin".
"The Pakistani army has hurt us badly - but while they have killed civilians, I swear I haven't seen a single shell directed at the Taleban," says Shahdad Khan, a refugee sheltering at a camp in Swabi's Shave Ada area.The Taleban captured our area and... threatened local people. But that wasn't as bad as the shelling by the army.Nasir Ali, displaced high-school student
Others question the Pakistani military's stated commitment to "eliminating" the Taleban. "The army brought the Taleban to our area! It's politics. The Taleban and the army are brothers."