"Pakistan: No End To Humanitarian Crises", crisisgroup

Pakistan: No End To Humanitarian Crises

Asia Report N°237 9 Oct 2012

Executive Summary

Full PDF Briefing


With three years of devastating floods putting the lives and livelihoods of at least four million citizens at risk, and military operations against militants displacing thousands more in the conflict zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan’s humanitarian crises need urgent domestic and international attention. Since the democratic transition began in 2008, some progress has been made, but much more is needed to build the federal and provincial governments’ disaster and early recovery response. Efforts to enhance civilian ownership and control have also had mixed results, particularly in the conflict zones, where the military remains the dominant actor. To effectively confront the challenges, the most urgent tasks remain to strengthen the civilian government’s capacity to plan for and cope with humanitarian crises and to prioritise social sector and public infrastructure development. It is equally important that all assistance and support be non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and accompanied by credible mechanisms for citizens to hold public officials accountable.

The military’s suspicions of and animosity toward foreign actors undermine efforts to improve the humanitarian community’s coordination with government agencies, and allegations that humanitarian aid is a cover for foreign intelligence activity threatens staff and beneficiaries’ security. Radical Islamist lobbies, including militant groups opposed to donor involvement, exploit the gaps in assistance. Sporadic, selective, and heavy-handed military operations have, in 2012 alone, displaced hundreds of thousands, particularly in FATA’s Khyber Agency. While conflict-induced displacement is now on a lesser scale in KPK’s Malakand region than in the spring of 2009, when a major military offensive against Swat-based militants displaced 2.8 million, the army’s failure to root out militancy has resulted in constant displacements.

In 2010, countrywide floods affected some twenty million, with massive destruction to infrastructure and livelihoods. Heavy monsoon rains in the following year further weakened dams and irrigation infrastructure, flooding large parts of Sindh, particularly its southern districts, and Balochistan. A fragile infrastructure, combined with deforestation and climate change, has heightened the risk of recurrent flooding. The 2012 monsoon season has already caused massive devastation in upper Sindh, Punjab’s south-western districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur and parts of eastern Balochistan.

Conflict- and flood-induced displacement has brought economic hardships – and the state’s limited capacity for development and service provision – into sharp relief. It has also increased the potential for conflict, with radical Islamist groups gaining ample opportunities to recruit those most affected by humanitarian crises. In areas of displacement in KPK and FATA where the military still holds sway, short-term security objectives often determine eligibility for state assistance. Additional restrictions have been placed on the activities and access of international and local NGOs and other humanitarian actors, particularly since the May 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden near a major military academy in Abbottabad. While radical jihadi organisations, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD) – the renamed Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) – are operating freely, using their charity fronts to win support, the state’s failure to provide adequate and timely assistance is aggravating public resentment, undermining its credibility and that of its international partners.

More than three years after the military declared victory over Swat-based militants, soldiers remain deployed in KPK’s Malakand region. While their presence on the streets creates a semblance of security, the military’s dominant role in maintaining order, reconstructing public infrastructure and determining the post-conflict agenda undermines civilian government capacity. The rule of law has also been undermined, particularly by the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations 2011 for both FATA and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), of which Swat is a part. These regulations give the military the authority to detain militant suspects indefinitely, including in internment centres that reportedly house over 1,100 detainees, thus violating constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of fair trial and legal appeal. Similarly, the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009, imposing Sharia (Islamic law) in PATA, undermines basic legal rights and excludes the region from the constitutional mainstream.

The social impact of flood- and conflict-induced displacements is no less severe. In Sindh, economic deprivation resulting from recurrent floods has provoked a spike in crime that could spiral into a major law and order problem, while creating opportunities for jihadi organisations to exploit public alienation. Tackling the causes and consequences of these humanitarian crises goes beyond humanitarian action and will require state policies that promote more equitable social and economic development and guarantee legal protections and political inclusion.


To the Federal and Provincial Governments of Pakistan:

1.  Prioritise building provincial- and district-level state capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies, including by appointing permanent staff for all district disaster management units and providing them with the necessary training and technical and financial resources.

2.  Mitigate the effects of future monsoon floods by prioritising irrigation and flood control infrastructure reconstruction.

3.  Remove restrictions on local and international NGOs and their staff, including by:

a) resuming registration of international NGOs;

b) ending the 11th Army Corps’ role in approving No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for local and international NGOs and their staff in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK);

c) directing the civil bureaucracy to phase out and ultimately end NOC requirements for international NGOs countrywide; and

d) easing the process for foreign NGO workers to obtain work visas.

4.  Abolish any additional role, official or unofficial, of the military in determining the humanitarian agenda, in particular by:

a) excluding army representatives from beneficiary selection committees and ending the military’s role in determining who is an IDP and who benefits from cash, housing and any other humanitarian assistance program; and

b) ending the military’s role in designating areas as conflict- and/or flood-affected, replacing it by developing a standardised and transparent process of designating such areas with input from elected officials.

5.  Ensure inclusive humanitarian assistance by:

a) demonstrating a strong commitment to the principal of voluntary returns by continuing assistance to those who choose not to opt for state-spon­sored return operations;

b) extending Watan card (cash card) provision to all Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) internally displaced persons (IDPs), within and outside camps;

c) using the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) as a model for other cash assistance schemes countrywide;

d) extending assistance to residents fleeing militant violence in parts of FATA where the military has not intervened and thus not designated a conflict-zone; and

e) delinking government assistance to reconstruct houses and restart livelihoods in the flood-affected agricultural sector from proof of landownership or tenure and instead developing trust-based alternatives for proof of landownerhip or tenure where natural disasters have destroyed documentation.

6.  Ensure accountable humanitarian assistance by:

a) investigating allegations of corruption in cash assistance programs thoroughly and taking action against any official seeking bribes for issuing Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) and Watan cards, or interfering in any way with disbursements;

b) investigating allegations of discriminatory assistance and ensuring that women and religious minorities in particular have unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance; and

c) developing a robust role for the national and provincial parliamentary public accounts committees and the National Oversight Disaster Management Council (NODMC) to oversee provision of assistance.

7.  End FATA’s and PATA’s political and legal isolation by:

a) repealing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 imposing Sharia in PATA;

b) repealing the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation 2011 for FATA and PATA and disbanding all military-run internment centres in PATA;

c) withdrawing the draft Local Government Regulation for FATA;

d) releasing women and children detained on the basis of the collective responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) 1901;

e) extending the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to FATA, as authorised under Article 247 of the constitution; and

f) following through on pledges to incorporate FATA into the constitutional mainstream, replacing the FCR with the Pakistan Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act.

To the International Community:

8.  Prioritise building civilian disaster management capacity at the national, provincial and district levels.

9.  Commit to international humanitarian principles by:

a) ensuring that relief and rehabilitation assistance is non-discriminatory and based on independent assessments of local needs, with beneficiaries identified according to civilian rather than military-determined criteria;

b) adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs) developed by the UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), for example by refraining from providing assistance through the civil bureaucracy to IDP camps established in close proximity to areas of military operations; and

c) urging the government to amend its registration criteria to allow continued assistance to IDPs in need, who, for legitimate reasons, choose not to return to areas that the government no longer deems conflict-afffected; and to extend assistance to residents fleeing militant violence in areas where the military has not intervened and that are thus not designated as conflict-affected zones.

10.  Develop strong linkages with national NGOs and community-based organisations; help build their capacity to coordinate among themselves; and maintain closer and more regular interaction with local groups in developing policies and programs to better reflect needs on the ground.

11.  Take measures to strengthen the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) system, including by calling on the HC/ Resident Coordinator (RC) to speak out more clearly in instances where humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and operational independence are breached and by improving the capacity of the protection cluster to respond promptly when international standards of human rights are not complied with in addressing the humanitarian plight of the displaced.

12.  Urge the government to give Watan cards to all FATA IDPs, within and outside camps, and support such a program, while insisting on a standardised and transparent process of designating areas in FATA as conflict- and/or flood-affected

13.  Encourage the civilian government to adopt the FATA and PATA reforms in Recommendation 7 above, with all entities, particularly the UN Development Programme (UNDP), ending all support to jirgas (tribal assemblies) and Sharia-based dispute resolution mechanisms.

14.  The Obama Administration should follow calls in the U.S. Congress to condition security assistance on unfettered humanitarian access, but the international community in general, and the U.S. more specifically should not allow frustrations with Pakistan’s military to impede the urgent task of building the capacity of civilian institutions to respond to citizens’ needs, especially in times of natural disasters and conflict-induced humanitarian crises.

Islamabad/Brussels, 9 October 2012