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Ongoing Response
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

Is Pakistan going to send Afghan refugees home?

Thu, 23 Jun 2016 10:51:21 +0000

Sardar Gul has been forced to cut his earnings by more than half.
Daily scrutiny by police cracking down on Afghan refugees in Pakistan turned his three-kilometre commute to a construction site into a two-hour ordeal. It became untenable. So, instead of braving checkpoints and spot checks at work, Gul traded in his shovel for an awl.
Now, he makes about 150 rupees ($1) a day fixing shoes at a makeshift stall near the Kababiyan refugee camp in Peshawar. This is pittance compared to the 400 rupees he earned each day as a construction labourer, and it’s barely enough to feed his family of 10 people.
Gul and his fellow 1.5 million registered refugees – along with approximately 1.5 million more who aren’t documented – are stuck between a rock and a hard place: Pakistan is putting increasing pressure on them to return to Afghanistan, but the conflict has been getting worse in their home country and the economy has also collapsed.
Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan for decades: throughout the 1980s and the Soviet invasion, the civil wars of the 1990s, the Taliban regime that followed, and the 15 years of conflict since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001. But Pakistan’s welcome mat has now worn thin.
Pakistan’s Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch told IRIN that the cabinet is finalising plans to send the Afghans home.
“We have hosted the refugees for over three decades, but now we want them to leave Pakistan by the end of this year,” he said, “The Afghan government and the international community should help Pakistan to repatriate them.”
He said refugees would be repatriated in stages, and some could stay into 2017 as long as relations between the two countries improve.

Increasing tensions

Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of backing militant groups in its territory, and tensions between the countries ratcheted up further this month with military clashes along their disputed border. At the same time, temporary residency cards provided to refugees are set to expire on 30 June, and the Afghans are reporting increased scrutiny from police, as well as harassment and extortion in some cases.
“The police and other security agencies feel that all Afghan refugees living in Pakistan are either terrorists, or help terrorists to blow up schools, hospitals and target security installations,” said Gul. “The fact is that we ourselves are victims of terrorism both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Aamir Saeed/IRIN
Sardar Gul with some of his children at home in Kababiyan camp for Afghan refugees in Peshawar
In an increasingly unwelcome environment, Afghan refugees say it’s now hard to find employment. Many members of the more than 200 households in Gul’s camp worked in Peshawar as cleaners, waiters or labourers, but he said many Pakistanis no longer want to hire them.
Bakhat Khan, another Afghan refugee, said police are also checking refugees who survive by selling fruits, vegetables, and other goods on pushcarts. “We are routinely taken to the police stations for nothing and released only after intervention of someone influential in the area or a UNHCR (UN refugee agency) official,” he said.

Trouble at home

As tough as life is in Pakistan, refugees may find it even harder if they go back home.
“Afghanistan’s prolonged conflict has led to economic meltdown and massive unemployment in the country,” said Samad Khan, a UNHCR spokesman. “It isn’t in a position now to support the refugees’ return and take care of them.”
Civilian casualties set yet another record in the first quarter of this year, the UN peacekeeping mission said in a report. The number of internally displaced Afghans has hit 1.2 million and people are fleeing their homes at a rate of 1,000 per day, according to the UN. 
Afghanistan’s government is struggling to respond to the crisis. A recent report by Amnesty International found that many IDPs are “living on the brink of survival”, as the government has failed to enact its National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons.
Yet, aid programmes in Pakistan are also being scaled back due to a lack of funding.
Khan said UNHCR had to slash its budget by 15 percent last year because donors provided only 40 percent of the $230 million it needed to support education and health facilities.
As of May, UNHCR could only afford to support the education of 53,000 of 229,120 school-aged refugee children, and those who are able to attend classes can only now do so up until sixth rather than eighth grade. The agency has been forced to stop supporting health programmes.
Despite shrinking services and increased harassment, some refugees say they have no choice but to stay in Pakistan.
“We miss our motherland, but we also know there are no jobs, education and health facilities for our children,” said Muhammad Dost. “We don’t want to leave Pakistan.”
refugees_1.jpg News Migration Conflict Is Pakistan going to send Afghan refugees home? Aamir Saeed IRIN PESHAWAR Asia Afghanistan Pakistan

Fancy a holiday in a former Taliban stronghold?

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 04:37:11 +0000

With peace returning to the Swat Valley, Pakistan has opened up the former tourism hotspot to visitors once again, but the army retains tight control as the threat from militants remains. 
The Swat Valley was once so popular with tourists who came to ski and hike among its hills and crystal lakes that it was nicknamed “the Switzerland of the east”. But that was back in the 1970s, before Islamist militants began their inexorable spread across the country. The trickle of tourists finally ended when the Taliban took over the area in 2007.
About 1.5 million civilians fled Swat in 2009 as Pakistan’s military launched an offensive to drive the Taliban out of the valley. When residents returned, they found homes, schools, and other public buildings destroyed, either by the Taliban or during battles with government troops. 
The economy was wrecked too, and the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is now hoping tourism will provide a much-needed infusion of cash. 
“The area is quite safe now, not only for residents to return, but local and foreign tourists are welcome too,” Zarmina Waheed, an assistant coordinator with the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told IRIN.
She said the corporation, which is a provincial government entity, has been in touch with tourism offices in Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and South Korea to spread the word that tourists are welcome. 
On 30 March, the government withdrew the requirement for foreigners to get a special certificate from the interior ministry in order to travel to Swat. 

Signs of war

Travelling through Swat, signs of the recent conflict are everywhere – a reminder of the constant threat that the Taliban could return. Visitors have to pass through checkpoints on their way in, and it’s common to see soldiers on patrol throughout the valley.
“We keep combing different areas all the time and do snap-checking to nab nefarious elements,” Shahzad Ajmal, a soldier at a checkpoint in Malam Jabba, told IRIN.
He said the military and intelligence agencies had thwarted hundreds of attempted attacks by the Taliban over the past few years.
Aamir Saeed/IRIN
A tourist registers at a checkpoint on his way into Pakistan's Swat Valley while an army officer stands guard
The government has also tried to restore normal life by thus far rebuilding 101 of the 113 schools that were destroyed, along with eight of 13 medical clinics and 79 other government buildings.
However, the once-bustling ski resort that crowned the town of Malam Jabba remains a burnt out remnant of better days since the Taliban torched it. Restoration work is in progress, but it will take another two or three years to rebuild.
“We are visiting Malam Jabba after nine years, but it is still not back to what it was pre-Taliban times,” said Muhammad Saleem, visiting from the city of Lahore along with seven family members.
Waheed, of the provincial Tourism Corporation, said hundreds of people now visit Swat each day, which is far from the thousands who once poured into the valley daily to marvel at the glaciers towering above the churning whitewater of the Swat River. 

Looking up?

Still, things are better than they were a few years ago, and locals welcome the return of tourist rupees.
Fazal Sher was a tourist guide in Swat before the Taliban came. When the militants took over, he fled to the city of Rawalpindi where he drove a taxi for about 600 rupees (about $6) per day. But he longed to return to Malam Jabba.
"Rawalpindi is a polluted city,” he said. “The noise pollution would cause sleep disturbance, so I always wanted to return to my peaceful and lush-green hometown.” 
Sher finally got the chance to go home last year, and he’s back to guiding tourists around and helping them buy local food and traditional items like clothes and caps. He now makes between 1,500 rupees to 2,000 rupees (US$14-19) per day.
"My daily income could treble and reach the pre-Taliban times if all roads are rebuilt, army troops withdrawn and people are assured the militants would never return," said Sher.
Aamir Saeed/IRIN
Ancient Buddhist ruins in Pakistan's Swat Valley
While most visitors these days are from elsewhere in Pakistan, Sher hopes international tourists will return too. In addition to its natural beauty, Swat boasts archaeological sites from its distant past when it was a centre of Buddhism before Islam swept through the region.
That ancient history has already begun pulling in visitors, according to Waheed. She said a group of Chinese tourists visited archaeological sites in April, and a delegation of Buddhist monks from Bhutan travelled to Swat in mid-May.
swat1_1.jpg Feature Conflict Politics and Economics Fancy a holiday in a former Taliban stronghold? Aamir Saeed IRIN Pakistan’s Swat Valley bets on tourism MALAM JABBA Pakistan Asia 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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