The Swat Odyssey

IDP Camp - Khi

Political parties in Sindh have been crying themselves hoarse over the past few weeks, as I previously wrote about, over the IDPs that have been arriving in Karachi. I recently had the misfortune to sit through a two hour session of Qadir Magsi [head of the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party] outlining why the IDPs should not be allowed in Sindh; his reasons include: Sindhis will become a minority in their own province. The Sindh government has sought to appease the regional parties’ and the MQM’s opposition to the IDPs move to Karachi by settling the influx in a camp on the outskirts of Karachi.

Unfortunately for the IDPs, the government seems to have forgotten about them.

I visited the camp today, which currently houses around 130 people. The lack of facilities is appalling to say the least; the IDPs have no access to running water, fans, electricity, separate toilets for men and women, medical facilities, etc. The only NGO I saw working there was Jamaat-e-Islami’s charitable organisation, Al-Khidmat, which provides them meals three times a day; a water tanker comes to provide them with water that is stored in plastic tanks, which is funded by private donors. The only thing that the government has provided is tents.

For the former residents of Swat, the tent makes no difference. They’ve come from pleasant weather to a climate so harsh that they’ve been falling sick. With no fans at the very least, living in Karachi is akin to visiting Hell. The IDPs are unsure of when they’ll be able to return home and have received no confirmation as to where their relatives are, if they managed to escape from the Valley or not. As one Swat resident told me today, “iss tarah zinda rehne se tau marr jana behtar hai.”

[Translation: It is better to die than live like this]

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