Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Pakistan crisis update

The fighting in SWAT has causes huge rise of internally displaced people in Pakistan. John our CMS Regional Manager for Central Asia writes:

People get onto a bus to leave the north west of Pakistan


The situation in the Swat Valley of Pakistan has been getting a lot of news publicity and I thought to bring you up to date about the situation from a CMS perspective.

Following the break-down of the peace agreement between the government of Pakistan and the Taleban the Pakistan army moved to re-take control of the Swat Valley and surrounding areas. This was to ensure that the creeping Islamisation of the country was stopped as it had become clear that Taleban groups were creating a corridor to Afghanistan and moving towards Islamabad, the capital.

As a result an estimated 2,000,000 people have fled the affected area. UN agencies have expressed amazement at the speed with which people have fled. The situation has been deteriorating steadily over the last year or more and people have not accepted the brutality and style of Sharia Law that has been imposed on them (destroying girls' schools, public beating of women, enforced growing of beards, banning all forms of music and many forms of entertainment...) People of the Valley see an offensive against a now entrenched Taleban as very dangerous for them. People have moved southwards and eastwards. Many are staying with relatives, impoverishing them unless they get support.

Mardan is a town at the end of the main pass out of the Swat Valley and the Church of Pakistan (Diocese of Peshawar) has extensive property there. Bishop Mano has reported setting up a camp for Christian IDPs and estimates about 150 families staying there. Other people have fled further to the provincial capital, Peshawar, and the diocese has set up a further camp in the old mission hospital. The diocese is appealing for financial support. Information has been placed on the F2S website.

Some large camps are being set up by the government, UN agencies and NGOs.

Pakistani displaced people wait their turn to receive food from a World Food Programme distribution point at the Jalozai camp in Peshawar, Pakistan on Tuesday

To the east is the army base at Abbottabad. People are moving in that direction too but that involves crossing a high mountain pass.

A CMS partner based in Abbottabad - PMS - has been to the NGO consultation meeting and has set out its proposal for helping families south of the Valley. Although PMS is only a few years old it is well experienced through responding to the 2005 earthquake and has also undertaken humanitarian aid in response to the floods in the south west of Pakistan in 2007. CMS has much in common with this organisation. PMS has appealed to various organisations for help.

All CMS People in Mission (PiMs) are safe and we are in contact with them. There are questions about their continued safety if the fighting spreads or if the Taleban start attacks, kidnapping or other diversionary activities in other parts of the country. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and take advice from people in the country.

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