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Balochistan Earthquake 2013

Two powerful earthquakes measuring 7.7 and 6.8 on the Richter scale hit Balochistan Province, south-western Pakistan, on 24 and 28 September 2013 respectively. According to the Government of Pakistan, the earthquakes killed 376 people and have affected at least 200,000 people.
According to the Government, Awaran, Kech, Kharan, Panjgur, Washuk and Gwadar districts have been affected. Awaran and Kech districts have been hit the hardest and have therefore been prioritized for humanitarian response.
Complex Emergency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA

Humanitarian partners are providing assistance to more than 1 million people who remain displaced across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as a result of ongoing insecurity since 2008. Conflict in north-western Pakistan has displaced over 4 million people since 2008, of whom 3 million have returned home.
Between March and June 2013, an escalation of hostilities displaced some 140,000 people from FATA, and in June and July, 67,000 people returned to safe areas in FATA. Humanitarian partners provided return packages including transport, food, non-food items and basic services. Partners are monitoring ongoing returns to ensure they are voluntary, safe, dignified and in accordance with humanitarian principles.
Monsoon 2013

Heavy monsoon rains experienced in August 2013 have triggered flash floods and caused widespread losses and damage across the country. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reports the monsoon rains have affected nearly 1.5 million people, 1.45 acres of crops and damaged or destroyed nearly 80,000 houses, as of 9 September 2013
Punjab and Sindh provinces are most affected. Government authorities, supported by humanitarian partners, are providing assistance in the flood-affected areas.
Monsoon 2012

Floods occurred in Pakistan in September 2012, affecting more than 5 million people. Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces were the hardest hit, with some districts inundated with floodwaters for the third consecutive year. The floods affected more than 1 million acres of crops, damaged over 460,000 houses and ruined basic infrastructure.
The UN and its humanitarian partners are supporting the Government in providing assistance to the affected people in the hardest hit districts in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces.

IRIN on Pakistan

Pakistanis displaced by war return to a ruined economy

Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:12:55 +0000

The Bara Market was once a bustling hive of about 10,000 shops. Now it’s a listless wreckage of rubble, and a reminder of the destruction that the war between Pakistan’s government and militant groups has inflicted on the economy in this region on the Afghanistan border.

Pakistan’s military launched an offensive in October 2014 against militant groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, seven semi-autonomous districts strung along the country’s northwestern frontier. The conflict displaced more than 300,000 families, but the government says the main military operations are over and people can now return home.

Just over half of the displaced families have returned since March 2015 and 43,302 of those came back this year, according to the latest update by the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA. Many returnees say they have come home only to find they have few opportunities to rebuild their lives, as the war has destroyed the local economy.

“We are living a miserable life as we have no capital to start our business again,” said Aamir Faheem in an interview in his house in the village of Piple Garhi, which was badly damaged during fighting. 

Related: Is Pakistan going to send Afghan refugees home?

His family used to run a flourishing cosmetics and clothing business in Bara Market, which is about 15 kilometres from the city of Peshawar on the road that runs to the Torkham border crossing. Before the war, the shop brought in as much as 200,000 rupees ($1,907) per month. But the family has now spent all their savings renting a house in Peshawar, where they fled when the fighting began.

“The government hasn’t provided us enough assistance even for reconstruction of our home and we are forced to live under open sky,” said Faheem. “We are happy to see our area free of militants, but the government should now take steps to rebuild the Bara Market and revive the local economy.”

Aamir Saeed/IRIN
Aamir Faheed with bricks he plans to use to repair his home, which was damaged by fighting in Piple Garhi, a village in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas

Government assistance

Shah Nasir Khan, an Infrastructure and resilience specialist at the FATA Secretariat, said the government does have a plan to rebuild Bara Market with updated facilities, including water, sewers, and solar lights. He said reconstruction would begin “soon”, but did not provide a date.

Khan told IRIN that the government has allocated 550 million rupees ($5.2 million) for small loans for traders to start their businesses again, and it will begin distributing the loans in a couple of months. 

"The government should open a vocational training centre in the area for youth, to ensure they can find suitable jobs in the factories and don’t slip again into hands of the militants"

The government has also disbursed $48 million in transport and return grants as of 1 July, according to the OCHA update. Families received 10,000 rupees ($96) to pay for transport home, and 25,000 rupees ($241) to help them resettle.

Returnees say the government assistance is not nearly enough to rebuild their homes and businesses.

“What the government has given us so far is just a peanut,” said Fawad Shah, whose three-room home was completely destroyed. “We can’t build even a wall of a room with this amount, let alone restart our businesses.”

Border troubles

The FATA economy traditionally benefitted from the free flow of goods over the border, but Pakistan is implementing new restrictions to end that unofficial trade.

“The traders now won’t be allowed to smuggle goods and illegal drugs from Afghanistan, for these crimes help breed militants,” said Khan, of the FATA Secretariat.

Factory jobs could provide an alternative to businesses dependent on cross border trade, but conditions are not ideal there either.

Aamir Saeed/IRIN
The Bara Market near Peshawar was destroyed by fighting between Pakistan's military and insurgents

Before the military operation began, more than 100 factories operated in a tax free zone in Khyber Agency, producing textiles and vegetable oil. Many of them were gutted during the fighting, but some have started working again.

Faheem’s two younger brothers have started working in a textile factory and are earning 12,000 rupees ($114) per month as non-skilled workers. That’s less than half the wage earned by skilled labourers, who are mostly recruited from Punjab Province.

“The government should open a vocational training centre in the area for youth, to ensure they can find suitable jobs in the factories and don’t slip again into hands of the militants,” said Sultan Mahmood, who owns an old textile factory in Piple Garhi.

Looming hunger

As FATA residents struggle to rebuild their lives, many have little or no money to feed themselves and they are receiving short-term food assistance from the World Food Programme.

“The WFP has been providing relief food assistance to returnees for a period of six months after their return,” said Mahira Afzal, a WFP communications  officer in Islamabad. 

Neither the government nor WFP were able to provide information about a longer-term strategy for feeding victims of the conflict who are unable to find work.

“The real challenge for the returnees will begin when the WFP ration scheme expires,” said Kamran Khan, whose family returned home two months ago. “These days, we are desperately looking for jobs in our area, but in vain.”


(TOP PHOTO:  Asad Sher weaves cloth on an old power loom in a textile factory in Piple Garhi. Aamir Saeed/IRIN)

fata_1.jpg News Aid and Policy Migration Conflict Politics and Economics Pakistanis return to a ruined economy Aamir Saeed IRIN PIPLE GARHI Pakistan Asia Pakistan

Why is China getting involved in Afghan peace talks?

Mon, 04 Jul 2016 03:43:02 +0000

During German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit to China, the two countries agreed to jointly fund a disaster response centre in Afghanistan. It was just the latest sign of China’s increasingly prominent role in that country, which also includes trying to jump-start peace talks with the Taliban.
Germany has been a key US ally ever since the ouster of the Taliban 15 years ago, sending troops, as well as being one of the top aid donors. Germany’s intensifying interest in a stable Afghanistan is understandable as it has recently become a destination for record numbers of Afghan asylum seekers. But what is China’s goal?
Historically, China has favoured a non-interventionist approach overseas, while being accused of providing loans with no regard for the human rights situation in a given country. Beijing generally steers clear of messy negotiations between warring parties, but in the case of Afghanistan, it has stepped into the fray, joining the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, which was set up to negotiate with the Taliban and also includes the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Experts cite a mix of economic, political, and especially security concerns that account for China’s interest in Afghanistan. They say China could be a key player in future peace talks because of its close relationship with Pakistan, a country that Afghanistan accuses of harbouring and even supporting Taliban leaders.
“So far, Afghans feel that China is as sincere as it can be, given its long history of friendship with Pakistan,” said Omar Samad, a former Afghan government advisor who has also served as ambassador to Canada and France. 

The Pakistan question

To many Afghans, the roots of their country’s problems stretch across the border to Taliban strongholds in the frontier areas, and even further, into the halls of Pakistan’s military and intelligence headquarters.
The Taliban leadership is known as the Quetta Shura after the city in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province where it’s been based since its ouster in 2001. When a US drone strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in May, he was travelling by road in that province. The role of Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies in the organisation of the Taliban and their takeover of Afghanistan in the 1990s has been well documented by journalists and authors such as Ahmad Rashid.
Pakistan’s involvement in any peace talks is key, and that would require a “shift” in policy that Afghanistan cannot initiate on its own, Samad said. 
“An answer has to be sought in collaboration, within an alliance with the US, other Western countries, other relevant and influential countries – including China,” he said.

A new "Great Game"?

So why is China getting into what Samad refered to as a “new ‘Great Game’” (a reference to the machinations between the British and Russian empires that played out in Afghanistan at the turn of the century)? What does China stand to gain through its involvement in the nascent peace talks?
“It is only natural for us to care about the stability and security of Afghanistan,” was the official response to IRIN’s question at a Foreign Affairs Ministry briefing in Beijing.
“As a friendly and close neighbour of Afghanistan, China sincerely hopes that the Afghan people can live in peace, stability, and security, and benefit from the country's development,” said Hua Chunying, the ministry spokesperson.
While there’s no reason to doubt the goodwill of the Chinese government, others say there is a bit more to it.
When IRIN asked about links between militant groups in Afghanistan and western China, Hua Chunying did not answer and the question was stricken from the official transcript of the briefing.
There is a militant Islamist separatist movement in China’s western region of Xinjiang, which is home to the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighur minority. The region borders Afghanistan, and Uighurs have reportedly fought and been captured there.
Those security concerns are at the forefront of China’s increasingly muscular stance on Afghanistan, said Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan scholar at New York University and former special advisor to the US and the UN. 
He pointed to: “Uighur separatists receiving military training and experience with Afghan and Pakistani militant groups, and the need for closer cooperation with the Afghan government.”
The US and NATO decisions to vastly scale down their military presence have also pushed China to take a greater role in attempting to stabilise Afghanistan, said Du Youkang, a former diplomat to Pakistan who is now director at Fudan University’s Center for South Asian Studies.
There are also economic and political incentives. China’s Silk Road Economic Belt strategy, for example, aims to develop infrastructure that will help connect Eurasian economies, allowing China better access to new markets. 
“China will not be able to implement these plans without peace and security in the region,” noted Rubin.

China’s quandary 

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group is so far only discussing a roadmap to peace talks, and even that process has been off to a sputtering start. In April, a Taliban delegation in Pakistan said it was ready to meet with officials. The Afghans refused to take part, and accused Pakistan of refusing to use its influence over the Taliban to push for peace. 
As a close ally of Pakistan and a supportive partner to Afghanistan, China could be the one country to bring them together. That would involve leaning on Pakistan to be an honest broker between Afghanistan and the Taliban. But will China play its hand?
“China’s best role would be to bridge the gap between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which would include some kind of pressure on and security assurance for Pakistan,” said Rubin. “But Pakistan is practically China’s only ally and it is essential to Chinese security and economic planning, so thus far I see little sign that China will do so.”
In any regard, the process will be a long one, so China’s role may have time to evolve.
In the immediate term, Afghanistan is facing a political crisis, warned Samad. Factions within the Government of National Unity, which was formed to stave off civil conflict after disputed elections, are squabbling over reforms meant to decentralise power. 
Afghanistan’s military is fighting hard to hold off insurgents, including the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State, without the support of the 130,000 foreign soldiers that were stationed there at the peak of the NATO mission. The economy has also collapsed in the wake of their departure.
Given the political, economic, and security situation playing out right now, the Taliban has little incentive to talk, and rather more to take advantage of the chaos. The Afghan government is also so consumed by its multiple crises that it is in no position to push for negotiations. 
“Peace talks are on the backburner right now,” said Samad. “How can you engage in any type of peace process when you have so many balls up in the air?”
Children aboard a farm cart watch as American armored vehicles pass through a dirt road near a pomegranate orchard in Arghandab Valley, southern Afghanistan Analysis Conflict Politics and Economics Why is China getting involved in Afghan peace talks? Joanna Chiu and Jared Ferrie IRIN BEIJING Asia Afghanistan China Pakistan

Situation Reports and Updates

15-Oct-2013Humanitarian Bulletin Pakistan Issue 19 | 16 September – 15 October 2013Download
15-Sep-2013Humanitarian Bulletin Pakistan: Issue 18 | 16 August – 15 September 2013Download
13-Sep-2013MONSOON UPDATE Issue 8 | 7 - 13 September 2013Download
06-Sep-2013MONSOON UPDATE Issue 7 | 31 August - 6 September 2013Download
30-Aug-2013MONSOON UPDATE Issue 6 | 24 August - 30 August 2013Download
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