Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taking Care Of The IDPs Is A Strategic And Moral Responsibility (Information On Where To Donate Included In Post)

The military offensive in Swat and Buner is causing a great deal of hardship for the residents of those regions. It is resulting in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the area. To care for these people, and house them, and feed them, and clothe them, is the responsibility of the Pakistani people because, Lord knows, the Pakistani government is incapable of doing anything productive. This responsibility has two dimensions: the moral, and the strategic. I will deal with each in step.

Pakistanis of all stripes should extend their hands of cooperation to the IDPs first and foremost because they are the innocent victims of a conflict which they did not ask for and one which they are not fighting. At this moment, they are helpless through absolutely no fault of their own.

Moreover, it is the responsibility of people who called for military action in these areas to stand up and own up to the consequences of such action. I include myself among this group. Though much of this trouble could have been avoided, as I argued, if the Pakistani state actually stood up to the Taliban before they moved into Swat, rather than after, the fact of the matter is that brute military force has terrible human consequences almost as a rule. As such, since these people are now suffering as a result of policies which we (or I) advocated, it is up to us to do as much as possible to limit the damage done to their lives. To that end, there are any number of places where you can donate goods and money to help the IDPs. For more information on organizations (both international and domestic) where you can donate, click on this post on Kalsoom's blog. For regularly updated news on the IDPs themselves, read this blog which is tracking all sorts of information on the IDPs (how many, from where, what is needed etc).

The people living in these areas have been through absolute hell for over a year now, as the Taliban encroached upon their land, slowly took over, extended their brutal form of "government", and are now being driven out by the Pakistani military. Again, to reiterate, they never asked for any of this.

One thing I remain confident of is the desire of Pakistanis' to step forward and help those in need. Lord knows, we have our weaknesses (irrationality, conspiracy theorizing, not taking responsibility for our actions, to name just three) but one thing we can't be accused of is not caring. The response to the two earthquakes (Balochistan in 2008, the Northern Areas in 2005) was almost entirely in the hands of the common people. People who could barely afford two meals a day for their families were donating blankets and food, and I know this from first-hand experience so please don't dismiss it as some fanciful tale. I have no doubts that Pakistanis as a people will again step forward, but my doubts are centered on whether or not it will all be enough.

Leaving aside the right-thing-to-do logic of caring for the IDPs, there is a strategic logic at play too. Refugees, whether they are from another country or displaced from within their own, are almost always a source of instability. Not in the sense that they cause trouble themselves, but in the sense that people who want to cause trouble have greater opportunities to do so when there is great physical and political displacement: it opens up all sorts of avenues to disrupt and spread chaos, and go undetected. In many ways, the fight against the Taliban today has its roots in the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, when the CIA and ISI used the mujahideen to defeat a superpower, and the ensuing refugee crisis. We as a people are paying the price for that period of ineptitude -- both the U.S. and Pakistani governments are to blame for that fiasco -- and we should take care to not repeat those errors.

If any of you have any further information on organizations accepting donations, please fill up the comments section. In particular, those of you who have had really good experiences with some organizations ought to tell us. There is no point pretending that all organizations do an equally good job under these circumstances -- that's simply false. One dollar in some people's hands goes a lot further than others. So knowing where to donate, and where best to donate, is really valuable information.

Photo credit: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood (first picture)
AFP/Farooq Naeem (second picture)


takhalus said...

is a good link to an appeal by the sarhad rural support programme.

Kalsoom said...

Here here Ahsan.

A Twitterer (is that the right term?) Bilish just posted some really powerful photos of IMSciences students visiting an IDP camp in Jalozai:

More than anything, the people in these camps need to see that other Pakistanis are reaching out to help them - we have all have lost faith in the government, but not each other.

My father heard on GEO that Edhi sat down on a step in Karachi and people literally walked by and gave him money - he walked away having raised a lot of money for the IDPs, just by sitting there. Goes to show ppl are really willing to give.

bubs said...

I have to say I hate the term IDP. It just seems to sanitize what's happening.

Naqiya said...

I'd recommend Islamic Relief -

I've used them before to send money during the earthquake, and know they really where physically there, helping out (a family friend in karachi who is a doctor works through them when she does relief work)

Ahsan said...

Takhalus and Naqiya:

Thanks for sharing.


Absolutely. Pakistanis' generosity really knows no bounds in times of trouble.


Yeah, I sort of agree. Makes them sound like a computer chip or a car model. Refugees is more apt, methinks.

Anonymous said...

article is a long-winded and self-righteous way of saying 'fuck, let's bribe these IDPs before they realize that paki troops on american orders massacred their own people with indiscriminate shelling, etc, etc...'

the US will divide up pakistan like they did iraq AND get the dumb ass pakistani troops to do the dirty work. lol.