Conflict in Pakistan: Fleeing with just the hair on our heads

Electric fans are essential in the high temeperatures

Electric fans are essential in the high temeperatures

By Jos de Voogd, Caritas Communications Officer in Pakistan

Over the weekend, the Pakistan army declared victory in Mingaora, a city in the Swat Valley in the north west of the country. Mingaora normally has 300,000 residents, but now just 40.000 remain. If it does turn out to be a victory on the battlefield, what will it mean for the people who have lost their homes?

I visited Shah Mansoor camp in Swabi this weekend. There are people who’ve fled the fighting. It’s set up by the Pakistan Red Crescent together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Latest figures show a number of nearly 18,000 registered persons. According to project coordinator Andrew the camp has reached almost full capacity: ‘We seek of ways to expand the camp’, he said.

The camp looks well organized. I speak to a man from the Swat valley in front of his tent. His wife is inside. I’m allowed to enter as long I don’t picture her.

He is a carpenter who came with his two wives, three sons and three daughters. When the village came under attack they had to run for it. On the way out his mother was wounded by a piece of a mortar grenade. She is still in hospital, but the family has no information on her situation.

He explains that the villagers are sandwiched between Taliban militants and the army. ‘The one says you have to stay in your house and not leave, the other says you have to get out’, he said.  

He explains that there was a militant hiding in the village and he fired, then the army attacked the village.

‘Why is it necessary to shoot on the whole village. Why not just arrest this one man’. The family brought nothing with them, ‘just the hair on our head’.

Suddenly the district president of the Muslim League, a political party in Pakistan, stands next to me, Mr Ahmed. He says he is here distributing electric fans. And indeed, I see a truck full of electric fans and men going from tent to tent. ‘Is there already electricity?’ I ask. He points his finger, ‘Yes, the cable is over there, but will be here very soon’.

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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Pakistan, Pakistan

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