South Waziristan

Pakistanis have fled the Afghan border region as troops move in.

Pakistanis have fled the Afghan border region as troops move in.

Another humanitarian crisis is looming, as thousands of people flee fierce fighting which has broken out as Pakistan’s army launches an air and ground offensive against Taliban militants in the South Waziristan area.

Local officials said 30,000 troops, backed by artillery, had moved into the region where Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is based.
Officials said the Taliban were resisting as troops mobilised from the north, east, and west.
A curfew was imposed in the region before the offensive began.
There have been several co-ordinated Taliban attacks in recent days, killing more than 150 people in several Pakistan cities.
Local officials said there were dozens of casualties as both sides used heavy weapons.
The bodies of three Pakistan soldiers were taken to the northern town of Razmak.
Nearly all communications in the region were down after the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower at Tiarza, local officials said.

Air attack
Local officials and witnesses said there had been aerial bombardments in the Makeen area, a stronghold of the Mehsud tribe and a key army target.
One eyewitness from Makeen town described the onset of fighting.
“We heard the sounds of planes and helicopters early Saturday. Then we heard blasts. We are also hearing gunshots and it seems the army is exchanging fire with Taliban,” Ajmal Khan told the Associated Press news agency by telephone.
The ground operation comes after weeks of air and artillery strikes against militant targets in the region, which lies close to the Afghan border.
Thousands of civilians have fled South Waziristan in anticipation of the offensive.
Transport has been difficult as roads have been blocked by the military.
There is a huge army presence on the road between Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, says the BBC’s Islamabad correspondent Shoaib Hasan, near South Waziristan.
On his way to South Waziristan, he passed several army convoys on the road.
There has been no comment from the Pakistan military yet.
The mobilisation came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani held a meeting of the country’s senior political and military leadership.

Lengthy planning
Recent militant attacks were seen as an attempt to divide public opinion, but they appear to have strengthened the resolve of the government, which says the Taliban must now be eliminated, our correspondent added.

The army has been massing troops near the militants’ stronghold for months – ever since the Governor of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province announced a ground offensive in South Waziristan on 15 June.
Pakistan’s government has been under considerable pressure from the US to tackle militancy there.
North and South Waziristan form a lethal militant belt from where insurgents have launched attacks across north-west Pakistan as well as into parts of eastern Afghanistan.
South Waziristan is considered to be the first significant sanctuary for Islamic militants outside Afghanistan since 9/11.
It also has numerous training camps for suicide bombers.

It is clear that, like the Pakistan army’s offensive against militants in the Swat Valley earlier this year, many ordinary civilians will be displaced, injured, or even killed, in this latest round of fighting. Many may not be able to return to their homes for several months, and with winter approaching they will need all the help they can get.

For background context, see the video below:

Swat Valley update

Recently, the Pakistani government opened up the Swat valley and neighbouring districts.
This meant around two million displaced people had hope of life getting back to normal.

However, it is not simply a matter of returning to their homes: many people are finding their businesses and homes ruined, by damage or looting. While the world’s eyes may have moved on, we must not forget that these people still urgently need our help.

Of the two million people who fled Pakistans Swat Valley in late April, only about a third have currently returned. More than a million of the refugees who have not returned home remain in the region of Mardan, overwhelming services there.
Aid workers from the humanitarian group Concern Worldwide recently visited the affected area and documented the very difficult conditions there.
Dominic MacSorley, the operating manager of Concern Worldwide U.S., joins Martin Savidge to discuss the state of affairs in Mardan and the surrounding areas.

Swat Valley Refugees

In July, MCC launched an urgent appeal to help the victims of the war in Swat Valley, Pakistan. We desperately need to provide emergency supplies of food, clean water, tents and essential medicines, to the 2.5 million people fleeing the fighting. The onset of monsoon rains in July stretched resources even further – increasing the risk of diarrhoea and malaria for the displaced people. Even in spite of this desperate situation, things could actually be a lot worse.
We would be facing a “humanitarian meltdown” were it not for the generosity of Pakistani families and communities of modest means who are looking after the vast majority of these people. The world’s richest nations need to dig much deeper in their pockets to help. Please donate now.

To find out more about the current situation, please watch the video below: