The number of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Pakistan has crept beyond the one million mark, and the number keeps swelling. The operation in North Waziristan has still not been concluded and Operation Khyber 1 has been launched, sparking another exodus. While the military races ahead at a blistering pace, the debris in its wake needs to be looked after. This is an insurgency – an ideology – that is being fought, not a concrete state or a defined enemy. When one head is cut off, two more grow to take its place.

The state has forgotten the IDPs, or at least put them on the back burner. With juicy political shenanigans, natural disasters, and border skirmishes, the government has its hands full. The IDPs have silently slipped from public discourse; no media channel picks it up, no politician raises a hue and cry. The system established to deal with the issue is wholly inadequate; squalid camps consisting of tents pitched in open air, bereft of necessities like running water and insulation, and crippled by mismanagement. There are constant protests against lack of food items and promised cash awards, the latest in Latamber, on Sunday. There are thousands more who forsake the dreary camps and try their luck in Peshawar or Bannu. Here they occupy abandoned shops and schools, run pillar to post for federal assistance and mill around without reprieve. All the while, thinking, reflecting and fuming.

Terrorists survive off the inhabitants of the land, who are either sympathetic to the cause or coerced into cooperating. The IDPs are these inhabitants; they have lived in the tribal belt, and have had little interaction with the state. The impression they take away from the state effort will colour their actions in coming times. The state needs to be pro-active and welcoming. They need to see the state as an efficient, empathetic, and egalitarian organization. Someone that cares, that can be respected and followed. Otherwise what is to separate the state from a tribal chieftain, or the Taliban? The state needs to be sold to these people who have lived without the writ of the state, to truly bring them into the fold of Pakistan and shake off other loyalties. Instead they are met with apathy and hardship; which hardens their hearts and makes the tales of the Taliban easier to believe. Furthermore, it is in these hellish camps that people resort to crime and partisanship to ward off hunger and gain security, which then evolves into other problems. The Afghan refugee problem should have taught us that.