ISLAMABAD - The federal government has, so far, no plan to engage the United Nations and its humanitarian partners for provision of humanitarian assistance to more than 25,000 relocated locals in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) who are to be declared as internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In a coinciding development, head of a key UN humanitarian agency has stepped down, it is learnt. Lynn Hastings, Head of Office at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Pakistan, is reported to have quit her job last week due to the reason that she has been assigned an important humanitarian assignment in another country. Her predecessor at OCHA Pakistan Manuel Bessler had also stepped down following a humanitarian job in Switzerland in the year 2011. No public statement on Hasting's resignation has come from the UN. The humanitarian agency would get a new country chief expectedly in the coming days, it is further learnt.
As the government's apparent plan to revive peace talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is perceived by many with scepticism, the ruling functionaries and security establishment appear to have made the contingency arrangements as a backup plan to deal with the situation in case the military operation is launched.
With the federal and provincial disaster management authorities and relevant ministries playing the central role in dealing with the relocated people whose displacement had started mainly from North Waziristan Agency (NWA) ahead of the surgical strikes in the FATA last month, the government officials say no immediate plan is on the cards to seek the UN humanitarian agencies' help on this count.
"As of now, the situation is very much manageable," commented a senior official at FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), requesting anonymity. Besides FDMA, the government authorities including National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) have the capability to manage at least 100,000 IDPs in the designated camps, he claimed.
"In case military operation is launched and the number of the displaced locals exceeds beyond estimations, we may think of seeking the international community's help in the northwest but no such proposal is under consideration at this point."
Talking to The Nation, Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Spokesman Aqdas Shaukat said Pakistan's military and federal and provincial disaster management bodies were assisting the displaced locals in FATA without the involvement of any international donor or humanitarian organisation. The plan to declare the relocated persons as IDPs and keep them in the camps near Bannu was being materialised, he said. "It is under progress. The provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has shared its input with the federal authorities on the humanitarian needs of the IDPs-to-be. The ministries of interior and SAFRON are working in coordination and a strategy is being mapped out for the declaration of the relocated people from NWA and other tribal agencies as IDPs," he said.
The proposal to set up smaller camps in the premises of a large IDPs camp at Kasho Bridge near Bannu and keep 250 to 500 people in every camp was being discussed, Shaukat said.
To a query, the spokesman said majority of those people in NWA, who were either Afghans or had their relatives or kith and kin across the border, had gone there. "Several people have gone to Afghanistan due to surgical strikes. Others have mainly moved to Bannu."
Secretary Law and Order FATA Jamal Nasir said due to certain official procedures and requirements, the declaration of the displaced people in the FATA as IDPs was not done as yet. "But this would be done soon. We are fully cognisant of the tribal people's humanitarian needs and are fully capable of taking care of them."
The FATA Secretariat in collaboration with the FDMA was presently providing assistance to more than a million IDPs who were displaced due to previous military operations in Khyber, Kurram and other tribal agencies. "If we can manage the IDPs in millions, taking care of a few thousand is not a problem," he referred to the fresh displacements, adding that the number of people relocating from NWA to Bannu was gradually decreasing. "Previously hundreds of people were on the move but now only a few dozen relocate every day and the number is decreasing with each passing day."
Sources in the FDMA said that 25,152 people had moved from NWA to Bannu, Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan by Wednesday night.
The Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had launched surgical strikes in FATA in retaliation to the repeated terror attacks from the TTP. Around 150 TTP terrorists were reportedly targeted in these attacks that continued from February 20 to March 2. Later the government revived peace talks with the TTP following a 30-day ceasefire announcement from the latter.