Saturday, 19 December 2009

Casualties of War

The human cost of war is the thing that most stirs me. Forget the political wranglings. Sure, I have deep seated beliefs and opinions about cause and responsibility, but the politics is neither here nor there when we consider the human fallout. People still need to live, they need to eat and they still need to provide for their families. My question is simple, who is responsibe to these peope?

"Who would ever want to leave their home willingly?" asks Wilayat Khan. "In the end we had two choices - flee or die."

We are sitting in the cramped three-room house he shares with his brother's family in the Pashtun-dominated neighbourhood of Sohrab Goth, on the outskirts of Karachi.

Mr Khan and his brother rented it after they fled their native South Waziristan. So far, it is thought nearly 15,000 people have fled to Karachi to escape fighting in South Waziristan.

Most settle on the outskirts and many find work as labourers, watchmen or in Karachi's Pashtun-dominated transport industry.

"For the time being, most of the families fleeing the conflict in the tribal regions cannot return home," says Ismail Mehsud, a young Pashtun politician in Pakistan's financial capital. "It's a vicious cycle - and the state appears unwilling to play its part," he says. "Just handing out blankets is not going to help. Increasingly, Pashtuns are being made to feel like second-class citizens."

Wilayat Khan agrees: "I thought all of Pakistan was our home. But more and more, I feel like a stranger in my own homeland."

Edited from this BBC report.

The picture is taken from a similar report from IRIN Asia and shows how IDPs like Alam and Farooq Khan are struggling to find work.

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