The Sindh government’s decision to close its borders to IDPs from North Waziristan is neither practically implementable, nor a viable solution to prevent the spread of terrorism in the province. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah is right in pointing out that the unchecked migration of refugees and IDPs to Karachi and other areas in the province has caused a rise in militancy, and has played a substantial role in increasing violence in Karachi, but the solution is not as simple as closing its borders henceforth. Neither is the problem that straightforward.

The 2008 operation in Swat, which brought an influx of IDPs to other provinces, increased militancy in areas like Karachi, because the provincial governments did not do enough in screening those that were leaving Swat. The previous PPP government neglected to keep an eye on the settlements of these IDPs, and allowed them to become dens of crime and terrorism. Although terrorists have impersonated IDPs to infiltrate cities in the past, closing provincial borders in a country which has the largest number of refugees in the world is inadmissible.

The IDPs from North Waziristan are Pakistanis that have been forced to leave their homes because Pakistan is engaged in a war on their doorsteps. The decision to conduct an operation is being backed by governments at all levels, which makes all of them equally responsible for the fate of those that have been displaced as a result of the conflict. The provincial government, alongside the federal government, do indeed have a mandate to their own people, but that means that those crossing the borders must be registered with diligence, and their movements are tracked and controlled to ensure that they do not slip off the radar, instead of barring their entry outright.

Qaim Ali Shah must also be reminded that if closing ones borders was so easy, Pakistan might have managed to overcome its terrorism problem long before this. The Sindh government will only be able to control movements in and out of the province on highways and train routes at best. Closing these avenues for travel are likely to lead the militants into improvising, and unmarked land routes and the Indus will be used to escape detection. Unless the regime wants a repeat of 2008, it must ensure that the IDPs are registered with due diligence, and determine the areas which are safest for them to live in. In an ideal scenario, integration into society would be the primary objective, but in Pakistan this seems too much to ask for, which means that the best we can hope for it that all provinces facilitate the relocation of IDPs instead of closing their borders to a national issue.