A European friend of mine, who has traveled extensively in S.E. Asia and Africa and is now working in Pakistan with one of the leading NGO in the country, involved in improving the quality of life of citizens living in the less developed areas of Pakistan, has just returned from Swat and Malakand area and briefly had this to say about the conditions in the IDP camps: 'The situation in these camps is terrible and beyond description. Women and children, sick and old, are being herded into these camps like sheep and are being forced to live in wretched conditions. This is a humanitarian crisis of immense magnitude. Another email that I received was from the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation, which vividly describes the pitiful conditions of the camps: 'Eighty percent of the displaced population is not in the camps, but in peoples homes and there are as many as fifteen persons living in a small room. Schools are overflowing with 200 to 1500 people and are without adequate housing facilities. It seems that what we see on our TV screens, in the comforts of our homes, is just a glimpse of the human suffering. There are reports of food riots and fear stalks the camps at night, with many under aged children reported missing. The law of the jungle prevails, with the survival of the fittest. The distribution of aid in the camps is badly managed and according to reports, some of the relief material is already on sale in the local markets. It is obvious from the mismanagement and lack of coordination, that such a large-scale relief effort required professional management. Political speeches and empty slogans will not solve the problem or win the hearts and minds of the suffering citizens. What is needed are professional managers, doctors and nurses who speak Pushto, basic medicines, clean drinking water, pre-cooked meals, cooking oil, soap, washing powder, fans, mobile, Muslim toilets, cooking stoves, utensils, etc. However, another friend of mine, who has also traveled intensively in the area, questions the figure of three million displaced persons and the per month compensation they are demanding. According to him, these figures are exaggerated and should be revaluated, as they are being misused to gets funds. It is also shameful how VIPs, politicians and political parties are using the miseries of the displaced persons to promote their political agenda and self-projection. They are only interested in photographs and media coverage and displaying their party slogans on billboards. In fact, their visits to the camps are unwelcome and create resentment and anger against the government, as the entire camp is disrupted, because the management shifts its attention from its work in helping the displaced, to showing the VIPs some well-managed portions of the relief effort and hide the real problems. My foreign friend concludes with the following observations, 'This is the real battle for hearts and minds and the future of this country. So far, the government has failed miserably, but I am amazed at the resilience of the Pakistanis. 'It is incredible how the people of these areas have opened up their hearts and houses to accommodate up to 80 percent of the displaced persons who could not find shelter in the government camps. If only your leaders and politicians were as honest and sincere as its amazing citizens, Pakistan would be a leader in the League of Nations in this part of the region. Now the displaced and homeless citizens of Swat are being asked to go back to an area that has been devastated. The infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, electricity, communication, clean water, crops, livestock, etc., have been destroyed and they have been made homeless in their own homeland. The refusal by the Sindh government to accommodate them in our cities is disgraceful and already causing resentment and anger. By sending them home without adequate arrangements, the government would be creating another generation of angry and frustrated young men, who would ultimately descend from the mountains and into our cities and create serious problems for the government. It took the Irish and Sri Lankan governments, with highly trained LEAs and anti-terrorists groups, thirty years to neutralize the IRA terrorists and tame the Tamil Tigers. Do we really expect our Keystone LEAs to contain or stop the March of the Taliban once they infiltrate our cities? For the last two years, there has been a negative publicity campaign against Pakistan, with weekly columns from political pundits and think tanks about Pakistan and AZs government on the verge of collapse, Pakistan about to implode, the Taliban are only 200 hundred miles from Islamabad, the security of our nuclear arsenal, etc., yet we have survived. But after the elections, the popularity of the government has been on the decline and there is widespread disillusionment, which is linked with the quality of leadership and the army of ministers, who lack credibility and have little qualifications or experience to govern. Most of them are petty bureaucrats or landlords, who are ill-disciplined and with just basic education. This has resulted in the most dangerous country, with nuclear capabilities, without a credible government, surviving on broken promises, illusions and striking bargains with political and non-political actors. And now, target killings of religious leaders and political workers in Karachi has returned to the city with a vengeance. God forbid, if the angry young men from the mountains, join hands with the local terror groups, then this could be the last straw on AZs breaking back and could be the beginning of the end. How long will this charade by the government continue or last is anybodys guess and once again rings to mind Khalil Gibrans poem Pity the Nation from 'The garden of the Prophet: 'Pity the nation whose people are sheep and whose shepherds mislead them - Pity the nation that raises not its voice - except to praise conquerors - Pity the people who allow their rights to erode and their freedoms to be washed away. As for the belated Presidential speech, it turned out to be, 'much ado about nothing and ended up, 'not with a bang, but a whimper. Is it not the time for us, the citizens, to raise our voices and demand that the government fulfill its obligation to the nation and its citizens? 'If not now, then when? - If not us, then who? E-mail: trust@super.net.pk