The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Human Security as an End of Solution to Internal Diplacement

Posted in Internal Conflicts and Human Security by NTSblog on October 9, 2010

This summer heavy floods hit Pakistan, affecting more than twenty million people countrywide. Among the flood victims, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are the most vulnerable group. In September 2010, the International Crisis Group (ICG) and International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) issued their respective briefing on the situations of internal displacement in Pakistan’s north-western Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP). Both reports alerted that the IDPs crisis is worsening. The disaster had aggravated IDPs’ vulnerabilities relating to food security, health security, economic security, etc. As the floods have overstretched the resources of the host communities, some IDPs have to returned to their homes despite the latter still being unsafe to stay in. This inevitably would  put their physical security at risk. Hence, the resettlement of the IDPs and rebuilding their homelands are a big test for the Pakistani government. Despite the government’s commitment to addressing the issue of internal displacement, the strategy is problematic as it neglects the Human Security of the IDPs.

As the Pakistani military is presumed to have better logistical capabilities than other actors in derlivering humanitarian aid, the government has been taking the lead in rescue and relief efforts. However, the problem lies in the fact that humanitarian concerns are only subordinate to the government’s counter-resurgence operations. In fear of the possibility that relief supplies may fall into the hand of extremists, the government has strictly controlled  the access of aid from international donor agencies and non-governmental organizations to the displaced people. The government will verify the beneficiary lists of IDPs from these aid agencies before permission is issued.  Families that are suspected of links with extremist groups will not be considered eligible for assistance. This denial of issistance to innocent civilians, ironically, renders them vulnerable to the recruitment of jihadist groups. The Pakistani extremists have been trying to exploiting the disastrous situations to win public support, as was demonstrated by their active engagement in the 2005 earthquake.

In addition to the selectiveness in choosing beneficiaries of the humanitarian assistance, the government has forced some internally displaced people to join the fight against extremists as a condition for return. This policy has put the physical security of the IDPs at great risk. In April 2010, two suicide bombers attacked the the Kacha Pukha which was housing IDPs who agreed to cooperate with the government. The forced cooperation have caused split within communities and resentment of IDPs against the government, which again could be exploited by jihadist groups.

The above-mentioned coercive measures adopted by the Pakistani government in addressing IDPs issues are against the principle of humanitarian assistance, which are neutrality, impartiality, humanity, and independence. In order to solve internal displacement in a sustainable way, the Pakistani government should incorporate the Human Security dimension into its operations. The Human Security of the IDPs is not secondary to military objectives. Rather, it is the end of the military operations.


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