Eye on Pakistan

Controlling Refugees and the Ethnic Politics of the “IDP”

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on June 1, 2009

Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and the MQM has been agitating for a while against IDP settlement in Karachi. See for example the following Dawn articles: “City Council offers support for IDPs”, “Northwest exodus prompts strike in Karachi” and “MQM wants IDPs restricted to special camps”. Karachi’s journalistic elite have joined the chorus of disquiet.  One journalist has warned that “Pakistan could be plagued with a polio epidemic” as the “Swatis fleeing the military operation in their valley spill across the country. The fact is residents of the Malakand division are extremely vulnerable to a polio outbreak.” The vaccination of refugees is thus to become a project of social and ideological control; a project to protect Pakistan (and here particularly, implicitly, Karachi) not only against poor diseased refugees but also “Talibanisation”: “One wishes there were a vaccine to counter ideological brainwashing. In the absence of one, the government and international community will have to put health on the agenda as part of any ‘winning hearts and minds’ campaign.”

It is little wonder that the The Awami National Party has responded with the charge that there is a “conspiracy to subject Pakhtoons living in Sindh to atrocities although they had nothing to do with the Taliban.”

We now see this pattern repeated (though no strikes yet) in Lahore: “The provincial government has now decided to continue extending help to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) at their camps in the NWFP instead of setting up temporary settlements for them in Punjab.”

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