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This time for real

As military action intensifies in the NWFP and FATA,this time the US seems to be endorsing Pakistan’s resolve in flushing out the Taliban.

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
May 16, 2009 1:25:42 am

As military action intensifies in the NWFP and FATA,this time the US seems to be endorsing Pakistan’s resolve in flushing out the Taliban. The News,on May 11 quoted Centcom chief General David Petraeus telling Fox News that “the current Pakistani offensive against the Taliban was far different from the previous attempts to flush out the militants from the region. There are a number of signs of difference actually. First,the actions of the Pakistani Taliban pushing below the Swat valley into Dir and Buner seem to have galvanised all of Pakistan,not just the president and the prime minister but even the opposition leaders,virtually all the elements of the political spectrum and the people in addition to,of course,the military… Islamabad’s anti-terrorism commitment was also reflected in its decision to shift some forces from the eastern part of the country,faced off against India,to the northwestern frontier province areas….”

Rasul Bakhsh Rais,in his May 12 column in Daily Times underscored that idea. “This time around,public opinion has turned against the Taliban both in the insurgency-hit areas and in rest of the country. Another positive sign is that the major political parties are on the same page; there is growing realisation that we cannot surrender anything to the armed groups or allow the Taliban to threaten the local population.”

Refugees in their own land

The Taliban isn’t the only horror confronting Pakistan. The internally displaced people (IDPs) or war refugees,whose number keeps escalating exponentially,is the newest crisis the country is faced with. They have traded their homes for refugee camps. Dawn reported UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on May 15: “Some 834,000 IDPs have been registered so far. This is a massive displacement in the world today. Pakistan is passing through a difficult period. The international community should come forward and help Pakistan.’ They join another 500,000 people who fled bouts of fighting in the northwest last year…With more than 1.3 million people displaced,Human Rights Watch has warned Pakistan is facing its biggest movement of people since the partition of India in 1947.”

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The Daily Times’ editorial viewed the exodus and the state’s disaster management strategy with cynicism. “PM Yousaf Raza Gilani says the Swat operation is a fight for the ‘survival of Pakistan’. True. But we could be defeated in this fight by the developing crisis of the refugee camps unless we do some emergency reorganisation. When the provincial government asked the people of the Malakand region to leave their homes to give the Pakistan Army a chance to take on the Taliban without too much collateral damage,the local population readily agreed. But their reception at the camps is turning out to be a trauma they did not anticipate.”

Dawn dwelled on this idea in its May 15 editorial,calling the crisis a “litmus test” for the government’s support to the refugees who are the immediate victims of the horror unleashed by the extremists. Comparing their spadework with that after the Kashmir earthquake of 2005,it viewed: “Unlike the overwhelming outpouring of sympathy and aid after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake,the current crisis is marked by a lack of either material support or societal solidarity for the IDPs. Yet they are no less deserving of assistance and compassion than the victims of the earthquake — perhaps more so,considering that natural disasters cannot be prevented but the current tragedy is a result of a crisis that is political in nature and as such man-made.”

Go for gold!

Contrary to Pakistan’s currently lacklustre image,Daily Times carried an article on May 11 which claimed that the country has joined the club of ‘gold-producing countries’ by producing “7.746 tonnes of gold during the last five years”. A senior official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources told APP that “at present,copper,gold,silver and magnetite are being produced from the Saindak Copper-Gold Project in Balochistan’s Chaghi district”.

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