Terror's Other Victims

Pakistan's Refugee Plan

President General Pervez Musharraf has announced a comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem of Afghan refugees created by the U.S. military action against the Taliban government. It is one of three strategies, said the president, needed to cope with the situation. The other two strategies are military and political. In both of these strategies Pakistan’s role varies from a marginal to an advisory one, depending on U.S. decisions. And yet Pakistan remains the most affected country in the world. The military decisions, for example, have caused more violent protests here than anywhere else, and [Pakistan’s] advice to the United States to keep this military action short has not cut much ice. Pakistan may lose more than it gained in the post-war days.

Pakistan is being assured that it will not be abandoned, as it was when it helped the United States win its war against Russia in Afghanistan, but the broad and deep fallout of such a war on Pakistan’s society may still be quite destabilizing. One part of that fallout, obviously, is the huge influx of refugees. Pakistan has 2.5 million of them from the previous war, and another 100,000 may have so far reached Pakistan, despite its having closed its border with Afghanistan. And on top of that international pressure is on, coaxing Pakistan to open its borders to a whole flood of more refugees. To meet that pressure, President Musharraf’s four-point strategy may yet have a chance. The first point being that, subject to the cooperation of the Taliban, efforts should be made to send food, medicines, etc., to the cities and countryside of Afghanistan were people are still living. That may, it is hoped, help the people stay put and not join the caravans moving to the borders.

The second point is that refugee camps should be established by the Red Cross and other agencies close to the border inside Afghanistan, for those who have already left their homes and are trying to cross over to Pakistan. The other two points, which deal with help to those who have already crossed over or may cross over, are, of course, implementable and good, further underpinned as these are by the food and other resources available to Pakistan, plus the resources Pakistan is planning to generate by giving a call to the public for donations and other help. Needless to say the only meaningful solution to the problem lies in an early end to the war.