President Asif Ali Zaradi has reiterated that the government will take all out measures to ensure rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), affected by the military operation against terrorists in Malakand division.
“Entire focus of the government will now shift on the rehabilitation of displaced persons and rebuilding of the damaged infrastructure in Malakand division,” the President said while speaking at a reception hosted in honour of donors, NGOs and civil society, who had contributed to the relief of the displaced person and were specially invited to the Presidency to honour them for their efforts and contributions.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Federal ministers, diplomats, senior government officials, representatives of donors countries and agencies, NGOs and civil society attended the function. The government has begun sending home about two million IDPs displaced two months ago when Pakistan army launched an assault on Taliban terrorists in the Swat and other parts of Malakand, who were challenging the writ of the government.
The President expressed gratitude to people of Pakistan and political parties for their unconditional support to the government in testing times faced by the country. “Not only the displaced people, but also the people of Pakistan are grateful for their sincere support and assistance. Without your assistance it would have been most difficult job,” he said.
President Zardari described it an auspicious occasion as the formal return of the displaced persons back to their homes had started, saying that the beginning of the return journey of the displaced person marked the beginning of the end of one phase; and the start of another. He said that the issue of rehabilitation of displaced persons was a huge challenge before the nation, which should be met through the collective effort of the people, the government and the international community.”Perhaps never before the world witnessed such a large scale displacement in such a short span of time and the fallout was enormous, the challenge was huge,” President Zardari said. He appreciated the sacrifices made by the internally displaced persons. “They were forced to leave their homes, businesses and workplaces. They underwent great hardships, but they courageously endured it,” he said.
“I salute their courage and the sacrifices they have made. We resolve not to abandon our brothers and sisters in this hour of trial, but also take every possible step to help them resume normal life in their homes,” the President said. “The problems of the IDPs are both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, our aim was to provide immediate relief,” he said, adding that in the long term, the government had to rehabilitate them in their homes and also rebuild and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.
The President urged the donors, the international community and members of civil society to keep this in mind and continue to extend humanitarian assistance to the IDPs. “We have been emphasising upon the world that rehabilitation of the IDPs is the most critical element of fight against militancy,” the President said.
Pakistan expected the international community, the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) to step forward, the President said. “Help us in establishing peace, help us in fighting this cancer of militancy, otherwise the cancer will spread to other parts of world and no one will be safe,” he added.
Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan needed an estimated 2.6 billion dollars for rehabilitation of the IDPs and reconstruction needs in the areas where military operation was launched.
He termed the operation a “significant success” as it gained the support of the locals, the entire nation and the political parties. “However, the crisis is not yet over,” Gilani said, and pointed that the government would be doing a Post-Crisis Needs Assessment with the assistance of World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to help the people restart their lives.
He said the government had earmarked Rs 50 billion for the IDPs that would be used for their relief and rehabilitation. He also pointed at the setting up of a Strategic Policy Committee, comprising senior political and official leadership of the NWFP that would provide details to the international aid agencies and donors.
He lauded the international aid agencies, donors, NGOs, the civil society and the host families for reaching out to the displaced people. He thanked them for working in tandem with the government in helping the affectees. The Prime Minister lauded the country’s Armed Forces for re-establishing the writ of the government. He said the infrastructure in the area had been partially restored and a medium and long-term rehabilitation programme was being devised.
Gilani stressed that measures need to be taken to ensure that the government did not have to resort to such measures. He said through good governance, provision of speedy justice and socio-economic measures, such evils could be nipped in the bud.
Earlier, NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti said the entire nation, along with its Armed Forces, exhibited strong courage, determination and sacrifice to counter the challenges it was confronting. He paid rich tributes to the host communities and families, who opened their doors to the displaced families, reviving the great tradition set by the Ansars of Madinah.
He said that the provincial government would take all necessary measures to ensure that the displaced people were well taken care of and their sufferings were mitigated. Umited Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator Martin Mogwanja, Country Director of Oxfam Neva Humaira Khan and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SRSP Masood-ul-Mulk spoke about the challenges that were faced by the millions of displaced people from Malakand and Swat.
They were appreciative of the quick response by the civil society, the government, NGOs, national and international aid agencies and the Armed Forces for reaching out to the affected people.
They pointed that around 20,000 families got shelter and food with thousands of host families, but also pointed that 150,000 people needed a place to live once they left the school buildings they were currently staying. The representatives of the aid agencies said the return must ensure that it was dignified, safe, sustainable and voluntary.
Story first published: 14th July 2009