May 26, 2009

Crisis in Pakistan - Afghanistan border

In the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, the growing strength of Taliban militants is a serious threat. A research by the BBC News shows that only 38% of the area is under full government control. The number of displaced people in the Swat valley is skyrocketing, the current UNHCR estimate being almost 2.4 millions. Similarly in Afghanistan, casualties among civilians are rising across the country. These are tough times for the region. And, if proper actions are not taken now, things can go nasty and the worst we fear might be possible.

The last thing that Pakistan wants at the moment is the rising influence of the Taliban among people. Sadly this seems to be happening and the irony is that the government is indirectly helping the cause. The government has been highly criticized for the way it has handled the crisis. The government-run camps have below par facilities for displaced people and are substantially inadequate. They can assist only a small fraction of civilians. The result is that it has encouraged the rest to seek help from the very forces the Pakistani army is fighting against. This has jeopardized the prospect of peace and stability as refugee camps have become recruiting grounds for different militant groups.

On the other side of the border in Afghanistan, UN reports that civilian deaths have increased by 39% from last year. In Helmand province, the place with the maximum number of displaced civilians, as long as civilians get security, they don’t care where that is coming from – the Taliban or the government. The situation is critical. The stakes of the government’s failure are high, for the Taliban will try to increase its influence in areas where the government and foreign troops fail.

With the rising Taleban insurgency, children continue to suffer in Afghanistan. Illiteracy has always been a major issue in Afghanistan where more than two-thirds of people over the age of 15 cannot read and write. But in the recent years, the situation has worsened. Schools have been blown away, children have been attacked. Some schools serve as refugee camps to displaced people. Children have haunted memories in attacked schools. Things are unlikely to go better and children are unlikely to get back to schools unless we replace fear with hope.

The going seems tough in the region and in times like these smart decisions need to be taken. The government has an opportunity to win the hearts of people by providing stability and security to people. Any mismanaged funds and foreign troops hereafter would only alienate the population.