Islamabad – A UN Humanitarian Affairs chief visited Pakistan to discuss the response required from the global community to support the return of country’s displaced population to their homes.
The Director of Operations for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging met with the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Mr. Sardar Mehtab Khan, and a number of government officials and representatives of the humanitarian agencies in Peshawar to discuss the response required from the humanitarian community to support the return of the displaced population to their areas of origin in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Accompanied by the Political Agent Khyber Agency Shahab Ali Shah, Mr. Ging also attended a Jirga meeting of tribal elders of the displaced populations and the returnees and acquired firsthand information on their situation and the challenges they face. Mr. Ging assured the tribal elders that the humanitarian community will continue to support the Government to promote successful returns in FATA.
Governor of KP stated at the conference that the issue of the displaced population and their safe return is high on the Government of Pakistan’s agenda, saying, “The government has returned over a 100,000 families to their places of origin this year and returns are currently taking place in five tribal agencies simultaneously. This task is not just about repatriation; it is also about rehabilitation and reconstruction. We want these people to return to an environment where they have their own livelihood, where safety is established and no revival of militancy happens.” Addressing the donors, the Governor said, “All of you have traveled with us on a journey of a thousand miles, and I feel we are very close to the completion of our journey.”
Acknowledging the achievement of the Pakistan Government in facilitating the IDPs (Internally displaced persons) return on a large scale, he said “I came to Pakistan because we have something positive happening here – there are a large number of people trying to rebuild their lives with all that involves. Lifting yourself up and going back to the destruction that was once your home is not an appealing thought, but the returnees are doing it every day. It involves a large amount of courage, and this is a journey of hope. I admire the dignity of the Pakistani people and salute their strength in the face of adversity.”
Addressing the donor community at the conference, Mr. Ging asked for an investment in progress and stability, saying, “We ask governments to reflect the level of urgency in their actions. This is a moment of change and opportunity. What we all have to do is capture this moment – we cannot let the momentum slow.”
Mr. Ging highlighted that the Emergency Relief Coordinator Mr. Stephen O’Brien has released $11 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund – one of the largest single disbursements this year – and a further $5 million from the Pakistan Humanitarian Pooled Fund will be made available to assist the Government and the humanitarian partners in their efforts to support the dignified return of the displaced population to their places of origin in FATA.
John Ging, concluded his two-day visit to Pakistan, accompanied by the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (designate) for Pakistan Mr. Neil Buhne, and the Head of OCHA Pakistan Mr. George Khoury.
Mr. Buhne congratulated the Government on their success thus far in returning the displaced population and reassured the continued support of the United Nations until the people of FATA have all returned to their areas of origin. He stressed that the level of commitment and the resources that the government is providing for the returns are significant, and the actions of the international community have to match that same level of commitment.
Since 2008, nearly 5 million people from KP and FATA have been displaced following a series of security operations against militants. While the Government of Pakistan has successfully facilitated the return of over 600,000 people this year, 1.2 million people remain displaced as of October 2015.
The rate of returns has increased significantly since the beginning of August this year, outpacing the capacity of the humanitarian community to respond effectively to the needs on the ground.