With Zarb-e-Azb ongoing, the evacuation of civilians from North Waziristan and the protection of its people is becoming a problem. Official reports are that civilians were evacuated after detailed verification and completion arrangements for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Miranshah by the political administration and the Disaster Management Agency. The IDP camps would be monitored by troops.
Over 60,000 IDPs have been registered so far. Civilians in Miranshah live under a curfew and are basically trapped in their houses. These are trying times for the people in North Waziristan. There is news that school buildings of the Elementary & Secondary Education Department in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Karak and Hangu districts would be available for accommodating IDPs from areas affected by the military operation. North Waziristan has a population of about 7 million and the number of refugees may be much more than the official government figure of 62,000. The government is building camps just outside Bannu, but in the blistering summer heat refugees are avoiding them because of the lack of shade, electricity and running water.
North Waziristan is not the only area with IDPs. The same has been happening since March this year in the Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency. The militant groups Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansarul Islam were fighting with the Taliban since March. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR reported that about 80,000 people fled as the Taliban razed houses of those suspected to support opposing groups. While 30,000 IDPs returned by late May, many were targeted with suicide bombings.
While it is understandable that we feel outrage when terrorist attacks happen in the major cities of Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad, the voices of people in the northern areas have been muted in the past few years. These people are the real victims of war, and deserve peace in Pakistan more so that the faraway urban populace. Victims of the Karachi attack were identified to us and that familiar identity goes a huge way in helping us grieve for and sympathize with them. The people of North Waziristan remain nameless and faceless, and so does their pain. In this war, they need to be protected the most.