Pakistan: Massive new displacement and falling returns require rights-based response
A displaced elder for Tirah valley is waiting in queue for the registration in Jirma, District Kohat, Pakistan. Photo: NRC Pakistan/Shahzad Ahmad, May 2013
- Country Statistics
- Latest IDP figure:
- At least 758,000 conflict displaced (31 December 2012)
- Total Population:
- 180.0 million (UNFPA, 2012)
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31 December 2012
Military operations against armed opposition groups, and local sectarian and tribal conflicts have caused displacement in Pakistan’s volatile north-western region for at least eight years. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are currently worst-affected. As of 31 December 2012, 758,000 people were registered as internally displaced by UNHCR, more than 90 per cent of whom fled FATA for Khyber Paktunkhwa (KP) province. The number of IDPs peaked in 2009, at more than three million, most of them from KP’s Malakand region.
According to UNHCR, 412,000 new IDPs from FATA were registered in 2012, while 59,000 people (12,600 families) - significantly less than in 2011 - returned to the area in voluntary repatriation projects, most of them to the agencies of Kurram, South Waziristan.
UNHCR carried out the registration process on behalf of KP and FATA Disaster Management Authorities, and those able to register as IDPs had most access to assistance. To be eligible, heads of household required a valid national identity card (CNIC) showing two addresses in an area which the government had officially recognised, or “notified” as conflict-affected.
Measures were taken to remove practical barriers to registration, but vulnerable IDPs from locations that were not “notified” were largely excluded from assistance. According to the IDP Vulnerability Assessment and Profiling (IVAP) project, a significant number in KP were unregistered as of the end of 2012.
Households headed by separated or widowed women faced difficulties in accessing assistance as many women did not hold their own CNIC. The need to ensure purdah, or honour, also restricted women’s access to food distribution points, and to information and basic services whether on or off camp. Other vulnerable groups, such as the chronically ill and elderly, experienced similar difficulties as a result of their limited mobility.
Military operations in the Bara sub-division of FATA’s Khyber agency led to a major influx of IDPs to Peshawar and Nowshera districts of KP in 2012. The Khyber displacement began in January and peaked in mid-March, when 10,000 families a day were arriving at Jalozai displacement camp in KP. By October, more than 280,000 Khyber IDPs had been registered.
Overall, 89 per cent of those displaced chose to live in host communities, rather than seek shelter in one of the region’s three IDP camps. Most families who were able to rented houses. That said, Pakistan’s total camp population was still substantial in 2012, with 85,000 IDPs, roughly half of whom were under 18, living in Jalozai, Togh Serai and New Durrani camps in the KP area.
According to IVAP, more than 60 per cent of displaced families outside camps live below the poverty line, earning less than 5,000 rupees ($51) a month. The rising cost of housing and competition for jobs has left IDPs in urgent need of food, rental assistance and jobs. Vulnerability has increased over time, and those displaced for longer periods have gone into debt to meet their basic needs after exhausting their other coping mechanisms. Lack of access to documentation, particularly children’s birth certificates and CNICs, remains a major protection concern.
According to OCHA, more than 3.6 million IDPs have returned home to KP and FATA since 2009. The government prioritised the return of registered IDPs to “de-notified” areas where it declared military operations over. To ensure the safe and voluntary nature of the return process, the humanitarian community and local authorities were guided by a 2010 return policy framework, though restricted access to some return areas means effective monitoring has not always been possible.
While nearly all IDPs wanted to return, tens of thousands of families were still unable to do so because of persistent insecurity, damage or destruction of their housing and lack of progress in restoring basic services and infrastructure.
With support from the humanitarian community, the government has registered and assisted millions of IDPs and returnees, providing food and non-food items, temporary shelter and essential services. That said, significant limitations remain. Provincial budget allocations were not enough to meet IDPs’ needs both in and outside camps, and the humanitarian community experienced a funding shortfall of $79 million during the year.
A much-needed early recovery assistance framework to benefit FATA’s returnees had not been endorsed by the federal government as of the end of 2012, and Pakistan was still to develop a comprehensive, national policy on IDPs. Host community and family networks played a major role in supporting vulnerable IDPs, including unregistered IDPs excluded from assistance.
Pakistan: Deadly attack on Pakistan’s most vulnerable kills 15, amidst flight of over 40,000
At least 15 internally displaced people (IDPs) were killed and dozens more injured when a car bomb exploded in Jalozai IDP camp, near Peshawar in north-west Pakistan, on 21 March. An aid worker was also reported amongst the dead.
UNHCR condemned the incident, and called on Pakistani authorities to ensure improved security at the camp, which once sheltered Afghan refugees. Jalozai is now the largest of the Pakistan’s three IDP camps and is home to12,500 families, or 60,000 people who moved there to escape violence in their villages.
In recent months, the conflict between non-state armed groups and the Pakistan military in the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has worsened. According to the Government's FATA Disaster Management Authority, over 40,000 people were displaced last week alone. Many headed for Jalozai camp in search of protection and assistance. While attacks on IDP camps in Pakistan are extremely rare, media reports suggest the recent attack may have been linked to security operations against the non-state armed groups in the Tirah region.
Local sectarian and tribal conflicts as well as militant Islamic insurgency have caused major displacement in Pakistan’s volatile north-western region for at least eight years. Only 10 per cent of Pakistan’s 758,000 registered IDPs currently live in camps, with the vast majority choosing to live with relatives or in rented accommodation.
Pakistan: Suicide attack against IDPs kills 43 in tribal areas (13 January 2011)
IDPs have continued to face threats related to the establishment of lashkar (tribal militias) to fight insurgent groups. On 25 December, a female suicide bomber killed over 40 people and injured 100 near a World Food Programme (WFP) distribution point for IDPs in Bajaur Agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said targeted Salarzai tribes who have formed a lashkar to fight against the TTP. International leaders condemned the attack, which could prompt the government to put IDP returns on hold until the security situation improves in return areas.
This was the second such suicide attack against internally displaced tribespeople in 2010. On 17 April, two male suicide bombers killed at least 42 IDPs who were queuing to collect food rations at the Kacha Pukha camp. Some media reported that the attack was motivated by sectarian hatred, but a local police commander confirmed that the suicide bombers targeted members of the Mani Khel and Baramad Khel tribes, whose leaders had agreed to form lashkars against the Taliban.
Pakistan: IDPs returning to South Waziristan; displacements in Kurram as tribes fight Haqqani network (26 November 2010)
After months of negotiation between the Pakistani security forces and displaced tribal elders from South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA), the process of returning is commencing this week. Between 60,000 and 80,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) will voluntarily go back to Serwakai and Sararogha, areas under the control of government forces. Humanitarian agencies including UNHCR have drawn up plans to assist the returnees with transport, tents, shelter and household items
Meanwhile, violent clashes that erupted in Kurram Agency in September have since killed more than 100 people and displaced thousands. Pakistani newspapers reported that Sunni Mangal and Shi’a Turi Bangash tribes were fighting over the control of water resources but, according to the Irani Ahlul Bayt News Agency, the Shi’a tribe was attacked by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed conflict displaces thousands in FATA; discrimination and violence against displaced minorities endanger Karachi peace (7 October 2010)
During September, civilians fled bombing in Bajaur agency and several villages were emptied in Orakzai agency as the army planned for new military operations. None of the IDPs were registered or received assistance. The security forces tried to persuade other Orakzai IDPs to return, despite insecurity in the area. Dozens of people, moreover, fled their village in North Waziristan near the Afghan border after unidentified explosions destroyed several houses. Meanwhile, tribal violence over access to water resources in Kurram agency killed 150 tribesmen and displaced hundreds more after several villages were set on fire. The fighting finally came to a halt after mediation by local authorities.
With Pakistan struggling to respond to the impact of natural disaster, the International Crisis Group and the International Committee of the Red Cross have also expressed concerns over the plight of flood-affected people who had previously been displaced by armed conflict in north-west Pakistan and Baluchistan. While humanitarian agencies have sought to prioritise assistance according to needs, national news sources have reported that the government have diverted aid from conflict-induced IDPs to those affected by the flooding, putting the returns of the former at risk.
Displacement, either due to war, human rights abuses or flooding is having serious political consequences in the form of ethnic and sectarian conflict. Competition over access to assistance has pitted ethnic and religious groups against each other, with members of the Ahmadiya community reportedly excluded from assistance in Punjab province and religious minorities were widely reported to face discrimination during relief operations. Karachi, already affected by ethnic violence between members of the Muhajir and Pashtun communities who fled the armed conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as sectarian clashes, experienced an influx of hundreds of thousands of flood-displaced Sindhi from the surrounding areas. Killings and suicide bombings also created widespread fear that the violence would spread to other areas.
Counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations and violent clashes between non-state armed groups continue to lead to major, rapid movements of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Pakistan’s volatile north-west. Within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber and Kurram agencies are currently the worst-affected areas. More than 415,000 people were newly displaced in 2012, and at least 131,000 more have fled their homes since mid-March this year (OCHA, March 2013, p.2; OCHA, 6 June 2013). There are now 1.1 million IDPs registered as displaced by conflict in the north-west, and many more are unregistered in the region and elsewhere ( IDMC , 31 May 2011, p.1; UNHCR, 7 May 2013).
An estimated five million people have been displaced by conflict, sectarian violence and wide-spread human rights abuses in the north-west as a whole since 2004. Disaster-induced displacement has been even more extensive. Around 15 million people were displaced across the country by three years of monsoon flooding between 2010 and 2012, and millions more by earthquakes and drought over the years ( IDMC , January 2012, p.1; IDMC , May 2013, p.18). (...)
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12 June 2013
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","General"
"IDP Figures and Registration","General"
"IDP Population Movements and Patterns","General"
"Physical Security and Integrity","General"
"Basic Necessities of Life","General"
"Property, Livelihoods, Education and Other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights","General"
"Family Life, Participation, Access to Justice and Other Civil and Political Rights","General"
"Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age, Gender, Diversity)","General"
"Durable Solutions (Return, Local Integration, Settlement Elsewhere in the Country)","General"
"National and International Response","General"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- UN expert calls for better protection for internally displaced people camps after brutal car bomb attack in Pakistan, United Nations (UN), 28 March 2013
- Humanitarian Country Team Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Regarding Support for ‘Return’ of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) to their Areas of Origin., Pakistan Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), 10 February 2012
- From Responsibility to Response: Assessing National Approaches to Internal Displacement, The Brookings Institution/London School of Economics Project on Internal Displacement, November 2011
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Establishing IDP camps and supporting off-camp IDPs in Pakistan., Pakistan Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), 23 September 2011
- IVAP Comprehensive Report A Detailed Analysis of Data from the IDP Vulnerability & Profiling Assessment, Internally Displaced Persons Vulnerability Assessment and Profiling (IVAP), 22 July 2011
- Internal Displacement in Pakistan: Contemporary Challenges, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, October 2010