Honourable Prime Minister
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
On the 15th of May, SRSP teams based at the Transit Facilitation Center on the Malakand Mardan road, established with the help of UNHCR, to receive displaced people, observed that more than 400 people came down that road each hour, continuously for almost twelve hours carrying people fleeing from war. They came like a tsunami, in cars, buses, rickshaws and some walking. This was a tale repeated many times, and at many places, on many days, in the coming weeks and months, with varying intensity.
Less than 20% of these people found space in the camps established by the government to receive them. Some went to government schools. But the vast majority in the initial days were taken care of by the moral economy of the area reflected in its deep social networks, strong ties of reciprocity and traditions of compassion, humanity and hospitality.
In the village of Suddam Rustum some of the elders of the area got together and raised resources from friends and family, to provide food for fifteen days for over five thousand people. They also bought a sewing machine to establish a handicraft center where women could work on their handicraft skills brought with them from Buner and to help ease their trauma.
In the Government Primary School at Jalala, located in a poor neighbourhood, where more than 85 people found refuge, their hosts from poor families shared whatever little they had with them for days and days.
In the Government High School Jalala where more than 400 people found a home the teacher took the initiative to use his school funds to feed them, sacrificing rules for compassion.
In village Katlung, one person gave three of his houses to 18 families and has also been providing cooked food from his home to date.
These are not isolated incidents, but were the norms repeated endlessly in village after village, and hamlet after hamlet. They depict a picture of Pakistan that has sadly been missing from the screens around the world. A picture of a society with great depth of human values; and a picture of a society with the capacity to surmount adversity with grace and dignity.
In passing our judgement about the response to this crisis we must never forget that this was a unique crisis in terms of the size of the human displacement and the speed at which it took place. The displaced people were also unused to the baking hot environment they were moving to from their homes in cool pristine valleys. This along with the fact that this was a man made crisis added to the mental suffering and trauma of the people.
The task facing the humanitarian agencies and government was formidable. Standardisation was required in programmes to reach scale and numbers; while diversity had to be incorporated into them to address special and differing needs of the vulnerable, women and children. International and national agencies had to work in a hostile security environment. Media and the civil society needed to be mobilized.
We need to briefly recall some of the challenges: the people were spread out in habitations that ranged from government run camps, to schools, to living in homes as guests or living in rented quarters. Their needs also reflected this diversity. For instance, while the need for food was a common to all, the need to address temperatures was paramount in camps. In schools addressing overcrowding and finding space for women to engage in activities that helped overcome their trauma were important.
The registration process found it difficult to cope with the deluge; Experience also shows that tracing and helping displaced people when they cannot be equated with camps is not the easiest of tasks.
We also knew that while social networks and peoples generosity could help temper the crisis the battle could only be won by the leadership of the government and sustained and coordinated efforts with its partners.
In almost all the villages our staff visited there was one remark they constantly heard:
Da Zamoong Malemana de,
Aw da zamung Akphal dey.
These are our guests and these are our own people.
By uttering these simple sentiments hundreds of people in different villages set the standards by which public service and response would be judged in this crisis.
It is not fair for me to say how the government, humanitarian agencies and civil society performed. This is a judgment we best leave to the people who left their homes and have undergone this trauma. As a citizen of this country I definitely found the government’s response most heartening. They got their best team together to provide leadership to the effort, put systems in place which were transparent to win the confidence of all stakeholders, made learning an important part of their work to respond to blemishes and weaknesses when they occurred,.. and incorporated lessons from earthquake 2005 response into their work. They also provided space and environment in which humanitarian organizations could be effectives and give their best.
We salute all the workers of the international agencies who despite the security environment have worked tirelessly to help us in this hour of need. Our thanks also to the media which has kept all of us on our toes and to the members of the civil society from both Pakistan and abroad who have generously contributed to serve the needs of the displaced families .
As the first families start their journey back to their homes, we all know that this is the beginning of a long and difficult road to rebuild their lives. A prayer we uttered at the time of the UN Humanitarian Appeal comes back to mind. I pray that when the people we are trying to help return to their homes, one day, they would smilingly say that in their moments of trial and tribulation the world stood with them and helped ease their pain, shared their sorrows, brought joy to their lives, eased their trauma, reached the most vulnerable among them and did it all while preserving their dignity and in the process won their hearts and mind. Helping the people who had left their homes was just the beginning of this long road, helping them find back their homes, security, their livelihoods, quality social services and their trust would require a long term commitment and an even greater effort , dedication and sacrifices on part of us and our friends all over the world.