Latest migration news
Below are some of the latest international news stories on migration and refugees, taken from Inter Press Service. If you click on the titles you will be taken to the full story on the IPS site. To return to this guide, please use the 'back' button on your browser.
If a Two-State Solution Fails, What Next?
Gaza women demonstrate to demand release of their loved ones in prison in Israel. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS
By Mitchell Plitnick
The failure of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians could lead to a significant shift in public opinion in the United States regarding Israel’s future, according to a new poll released Monday.
When asked about two options in the event the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was no longer on the table, 65 percent of U.S. citizens said they preferred a democratic state where Jews and Arabs are equal, against only 24 percent who supported “the continuation of Israel’s Jewish majority even if it means that Palestinians will not have citizenship and full rights.”"We always assume that pro-Israel means people will accept immoral situations if they have to and that’s not true.” -- Shibley Telhami
The Barack Obama administration has repeatedly warned both parties that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution to their conflict is closing.
This is widely understood to be driving the frenetic efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to cobble together a framework for further talks which he hopes would culminate in a permanent status agreement by the end of 2014. But should these efforts fail, the United States has no alternative to the current two-state formula.
The poll, commissioned by pollster Dr. Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, indicates that, as Telhami said, “if the two-state solution fails, the conversation among the American public might shift to that of a one-state solution as the next-best thing.”
In that context, United States citizens hold the value of one person, one vote very strongly. Telhami told IPS that this value was held even among those polled who felt the United States should be favouring Israel over the Palestinians in negotiations.
“We asked if you want the U.S. to lean toward Israel, towards the Palestinians or to stay neutral. As usual, two-thirds want the United States to be neutral and among the rest, most want it to lean toward Israel. So we asked that segment what they would do if the two-state solution was no longer an option. And we still got 52 percent of that segment who would support one state with equal citizenship.
“We always assume that pro-Israel means people will accept immoral situations if they have to and that’s not true,” Telhami continued. “A lot of people try to reconcile their support for the cause with their moral view of the world and that view is antithetical with occupation or inequality for many of these people.
“So for them, two states is a way out, where they can say ‘I’m not paying too much attention to occupation now because it will be going away.’ But if the two-state solution goes away then the status quo looks permanent and I think people, even the segment that primarily cares about Israel, will have an issue with that.”
The possibility of the two-state solution finally collapsing seems stronger with each passing day. Despite some positive statements from Kerry and Obama, the sentiments that have been expressed by both Israeli and Palestinian leadership have, almost from the beginning, been pessimistic and accusatory, with each side seeming to jockey for position to avoid blame for what they have portrayed as the inevitable failure of the U.S.-brokered efforts.
On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the leader of the left-wing Israeli Meretz party that there is strong opposition within the Palestinian Authority to continuing talks beyond the agreed upon deadline of Apr. 29.
Abbas has repeatedly stated that ongoing Israeli settlement construction makes negotiations very difficult for Palestinians and sends the message that while the Palestinian leadership talks with Israel, the Israelis are simply taking the West Bank through settlement expansion.
Bolstering Abbas’ case, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics released a report on Monday which stated that starts on new settlement building in the occupied West Bank increased by 123.7 percent in 2013.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived in Washington on Monday for a meeting with President Obama and the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), accused the Palestinians of not doing enough to advance peace talks and called on them to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu vowed to stand firm against pressures on him to make compromises on what he referred to as “our crucial interests. “
Given these stances, it seems there is little hope for Kerry’s dogged efforts. Obama warned of the consequences of failure in an interview published Sunday with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg when he said “if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction…If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”
Indeed, this poll shows that even within the United States, fallout will be a factor.
“Americans still have a generally favourable view of Israel and think it ought to live in peace and security,” Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and co-author of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, told IPS.
“But much of that support is fairly soft, and most Americans do not support backing Israel no matter what it does. This latest poll confirms that basic view, and suggests that Israel cannot count on deep U.S. support if peace talks fail and its control over the West Bank and/or Gaza becomes permanent.”
But Leon Hadar, lecturer in Israel Studies at the University of Maryland and senior analyst with Wikistrat, disagrees and believes this poll does little but satisfy the “wishful thinking of some.”
“My guess is that most Americans would support the establishment of a democratic and liberal system here, there and everywhere, including in Saudi Arabia, Congo, and certainly China,” Hadar told IPS.
“But the main problem is that there is no constituency in the U.S. or for that matter among the Israelis and the Palestinians advancing such a formula. That’s very different from the South Africa story when you had powerful constituencies in this country, including Congress, pushing for that.”
Telhami disagrees. “It may not have a direct impact on foreign policy. I don’t expect even 80 percent support for a single, democratic state will mean the White House and State Department will suddenly support it. But it results in a lot of civil society pressure.
“U.S. foreign policy is based on a lot of considerations, and domestically it is more responsive to groups that are better organised and today that means groups that are supportive of Israeli government positions. But I think the discourse itself will alter the priorities and put a lot of strain on the relationship.
“This will mean pushing the government to act on this issue. We see it now, with academic boycotts and boycotting of settlement products. Those things can happen at a level that changes the dynamic of policymaking.”
Political Wrangling Stymies CAR Peacekeeping Force
Flee or die: refugees from CAR in Cameroon. Credit: European Commission/cc by 2.0
By Samuel Oakford
Budget constraints in Washington and obstinacy at the highest levels of the African Union (AU) have combined to dangerously delay a possible U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), according to sources close to negotiations currently underway in New York.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was set to deliver his report on CAR to the Security Council this past Friday.“We agree with the principle of African solutions to African problems, but it should not come at the expense of African lives.” -- Philippe Bolopion
But the document, believed to contain a damning portrayal of ethnic cleansing and atrocities as well as a recommendation for an official mission, was held up at the last moment and delayed to this week, raising fears that its language could be toned down to accommodate the reservations of the U.S., AU and others.
Whatever the immediate outcome, the struggle illustrates an evolving and at times tense relationship between the Security Council, a more assertive AU and the U.N. over interventions on the continent.
“The reality is that a U.N. mission is absolutely essential to stabilising CAR, and the secretary-general’s reporting is spot-on as to the desperate situation on the ground,” said a high-ranking human rights officer in Bangui who spoke with IPS on the condition of anonymity.
But there is hope that this time Ban will not wilt in the face of pressure.
In December, with violence ratcheting up, the Security Council, after initially considering a French proposal for a full mission, chose instead to mandate and enlarge the existing AU mission in the country – thereafter called MISCA – and authorise the deployment of French “Sangari” troops, currently numbering 2,000.
The move saved hundreds of millions of dollars in the short term, but has proved a stop-gap measure.
Underpinning the tension between the AU and the U.N. is a push by the Africans and international partners to encouraged “African solutions to African Problems,” in this case, letting MISCA handle its mandate without calling in the U.N.
“We agree with the principle of African solutions to African problems, but it should not come at the expense of African lives,” said Philippe Bolopion, U.N. director of Human Rights Watch.
CAR “is not the time or the place for the AU to make a point,” Bolopion told IPS. “It’s pretty clear that the AU-French combination on the ground is not enough to protect civilians. A huge chunk of the Muslim population has had to flee under their watch.”
Smail Chergui, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, speaks to journalists following a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Central African Republic on Feb. 20, 2014. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
In April, 700 EU troops are set to spell French troops stationed the Bangui airport, allowing the Sangaris to travel out into more rural areas where the peacekeeping presence is thin and small bands of lightly armed Christian anti-balaka militias can wipe out entire villages.
In an interview with African Arguments, Amnesty International’s senior investigator Donatella Rovera said neither the French nor AU forces, by now numbering 6,000, have been effective.
“The military efforts belonged to the AU and French and they have had huge coordination problems,” said Rovera. “They weren’t present where things were happening, when they could have made a difference, when they could have stopped some of the massacres. They did not seem to be very willing to confront the new actor.”
The small U.N. political mission already in place, BINUCA, is grossly underfunded and ineffective at fulfilling its basic mandate. At the time of the December vote, observers expressed concern to IPS that without a bona fide, well-funded intervention, though violence might be temporarily snuffed out, the inequities and development shortfalls that led to the crisis would kicked down the road.
At the time, logistical concerns were also raised: where would an already overextended Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) raise troops?
Money was an issue as well: in the U.S., which funds over one-quarter of peacekeeping operations, Congress would soon set a 2014 budget that left a 12-percent funding gap in their dues and allocates exactly zero to a recently announced mission in Mali. How could they afford another venture in CAR?
Yet later that month, the Security Council saw fit to increase the number of peacekeepers in an already in-place mission in South Sudan. Many wondered if CAR was being shortchanged.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, who has publicly pleaded the case of CAR before the Council, was put in an awkward position by budget considerations. In a workaround, the U.S. provided 100 million dollars of direct assistance to a trust fund set up for MISCA, thereby making themselves investors in their success alone.
But MISCA is in many ways a poster child for AU stubbornness.
“It is important to remember that the MISCA mission has been around in various forms since 1996, so this is a country where many of the officers have been posted often. Many even learned [the local language] Sango,” said the human rights official in Bangui.
“The AU itself is very much opposed to a U.N. mission because they want to claim success in CAR and want to keep the MISCA mission, which suits the U.S. as well,” said the official. “The AU has long misrepresented the reality on the ground.”
In December, the AU’s envoy to the U.N., Smaïl Chergui, brushed aside accusations that Chadian MISCA troops had repeatedly attacked civilians in CAR. But last week, Chadian troops were again charged by locals with killing three civilians in a Christian neighborhood of Bangui.
At a Jan. 14 meeting of the AU’s Defence Committee, Chergui told gathered ministers in Addis Ababa “we are hopeful that we will soon significantly improve the security situation and prove the prophets of doom wrong.”
After an initial bout of violence committed by predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels left a thousand dead in December, the French Sangaris set about disarming and arrested the group, who had held power in Bangui since taking the city in March.
At the time, observers, including U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay, expressed concern over the potential for revenge killings against Muslims in areas vacated by the Seleka. Those fears proved disastrously correct and peacekeepers proved no match for containing disparate but potent attacks by Christian anti-balaka militias.
In Bangui, where upwards of 150,000 Muslims lived prior to the conflict, by some accounts fewer than 10,000 remain. Palm fronds hanging outside houses in formerly diverse neighbourhoods indicate where Christian families have seized a home deserted by their former neighbours, either murdered or attempted to flee, likely to Cameroon or Chad.
At least 100,000 Muslims have left the country entirely and countless displaced persons have fled to the bush.
In December, members of the Security Council explained their piecemeal solution to the violence in CAR by pointing to the six-month time frame for implementing a full U.N. mission. But three months later the same reasons are given for dampening hopes of a mission now.
Though the French have publicly spoken in favour of an official mission, they remain in delicate negotiations with regional power-broker Chad over existing missions in Mali and their basing rights in the country.
And they, like the AU, have reason to want the current mission to be seen as a success. President Francois Hollande, who visited Bangui Friday, wants to impress a sceptical populace after he made interventions in former colonies a cornerstone of his foreign policy.
Earlier this month, out of sight of peacekeepers, 70 Muslims were killed over the course of two days in the southwest town of Guen, made to lie down on the ground then shot one by one.
The post Political Wrangling Stymies CAR Peacekeeping Force appeared first on Inter Press Service.
North Korea Doing Fine Without the South
A new ski resort opened in North Korea last year is drawing many tourists. Credit: Koryo Tours, Beijing.
By Ahn Mi Young
If the North Korea of the 1990s was seen as a starving nation that produced an exodus of hungry people, then the picture should be even gloomier now – six years after it stopped receiving South Korea’s generous aid. But it’s not. The nation of 24 million people, widely said to be the most secretive in the world and a nuclear threat, appears to have weathered the years well.
Today, more people are reported to be better off. Many are engaged in trade. Its communist regime, inherited by the 30-something supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Un after his father’s death in 2011, is actively wooing foreign investors and tourists, and introducing reforms. Pyongyang has even softened its attitude towards Seoul to resume talks.
North Korea has been gradually weaned off South Korean food and goods.Ordinary North Koreans no longer depend on rations from Pyongyang as these have more than halved in the past years.
From 1998 to 2007, the liberal government in Seoul used to supply some 400,000 tonnes of rice, large quantities of milk powder and medicines for infants, cement and construction equipment and fertilisers to North Korea each year. Truckloads of cargo used to cross the heavily-fortified border that has separated the two Koreas since the 1950 to 1953 Korean war.
Each month, thousands of South Korean tourists used to visit the North’s scenic Mount Kumgang, yielding millions of dollars for Pyongyang.
But ties between the two Koreas almost froze after a conservative government took office in Seoul in 2008. South Korea halted all trade with North Korea, and most investment, in May 2010 after the sinking of one of its warships, which Seoul attributed to Pyongyang.
The loss of Seoul as its largest donor resulted in Pyongyang becoming more dependent on China, its largest benefactor and only ally. According to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), from 2012 to 2013, bilateral trade between China and North Korea increased 10 percent to 6.54 billion dollars.
North Korea has also been forced to become more self-reliant.
There are more now of the so-called “middle class” businessmen, including about 240,000 North Koreans who own 50,000-100,000 dollars worth of assets like apartments, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper published from Seoul.
“These new middle classes indicate that Pyongyang allows farmers or ordinary people to do business in the market. Earlier, doing business was unthinkable unless they proved their loyalty to the communist party,” an unnamed Seoul official was quoted as saying in the newspaper.
North Korean defectors in South Korea explain that these well off people are usually former farmers, traders or diplomats. A recent Media Research survey of 200 North Korean defectors indicates that at least 80 percent of ordinary North Koreans are engaged in local trade.
Ordinary North Koreans no longer depend on rations from Pyongyang as these have more than halved in the past years. The so-called “super-class apartments” in the North Korean capital are sold at rates of 100,000 dollars each.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), fewer North Koreans now say they need more food. Its 2013 survey says 46 percent of respondents have “adequate” food compared to 26 percent in the 2012 survey.
If all this is any indication, then the suspension of aid from Seoul created only short-term difficulties for the North, but in the long run it helped reform the economy.
With no food or aid from the South, workers who used to handle these supplies lost their jobs and had to find something else to do. “Many of them became sellers who are hawking in one market after another,” said Joo Sung-Ha, a Seoul-based North Korea expert.
Also, as the U.S. mounts pressure on China to make North Korea denounce nuclear weapons, Pyongyang will have to continue looking for other sources of funds, say analysts.
Already, North Korea has launched a series of reforms. In June 2012, it introduced a “family farm” system, wherein each farm family gives 30 percent of its harvest to the government and keeps the rest as its private wealth.
North Korea also announced the construction of 14 economic zones, where foreign investors can do business.
This January, a new ski resort was opened in the western city of Wonsan where foreign tourists can mingle with locals and drink European beers and even Coca-Cola.
Pyongyang has also proposed resumption of talks with Seoul. This month, for the first time after 2007, high-level officials from the two Koreas sat down to discuss the reunion of families separated during the 1950 to 1953 war.
Kim Jong-Un has reason to reform. He leads a nation that is perceived as a nuclear threat to the world. To reinforce his legitimacy, he must reduce the country’s heavy dependence on China and try to open up the economy.
But can such reforms bring about real change?
Kim Jong-Un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-Il and grandfather Kim Il-Sung, is being accused of encouraging cult loyalty to keep his family in power. Last year, he purged the country’s number two leader, his uncle Jang Seong-Thack, executing him on treason charges.
“Kim is now terrifying the nation by sending hundreds of Mr. Jang’s men to concentration camps,” according to Cho Myong-Chull, a lawmaker in South Korea who used to be a professor at North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung University in Pyongyang.
Many North Koreans say their government cares more about itself than feeding its people. Around 90 percent of those surveyed by Media Research feel there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor today due to the emergence of the new rich. Industries have been hit by lack of electricity.
But at the same time, more North Koreans are getting to know about the outside world. The Media Research survey of North Korean defectors finds that 70 percent of them had already seen South Korean TV dramas and heard K-pop songs while living in North Korea.
More than three million North Koreans are believed to own cell phones. Most defectors settled in South Korea speak to their family members back home through mobile phones.
There are more than 26,100 North Korean defectors living in South Korea. They say that in the 1990s they left home to escape hunger. But since 2007, more left in search of a better life and better education for their children.
In recent years, North Korea has tried to woo back defectors instead of persecuting them. In fact, fewer people have left for South Korea since Kim Jong-Un took power, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification.
Swiss Vote for New Squeeze on Migrants
By Ray Smith
Swiss voters have approved an initiative by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) aimed at limiting immigration. The result not only threatens the free movement of people, but all agreements between Switzerland and the European Union.
The voting results have been a shock for open-minded Swiss citizens, foreigners living in the country and the whole European audience.“Those who have voted for the SVP initiative regard migrants not as human beings, but as pure workforce."
In all 50.3 percent of the Swiss voted in favour of the SVP’s “initiative against mass immigration”, which demanded the introduction of quantitative limits and quotas for foreigners and a renegotiation of the “Agreement on the free movement of people” with the EU. The Swiss government now faces the difficult task of introducing the new constitutional measures at the legislative level.
Several foreign ministers of EU member states, and the European Commission (EC), the executive arm of the EU, have regretted the Swiss decision. In its initial statement, the EC wrote that the introduction of quantitative limits to immigration “goes against the principle of free movement of persons” and that the EC intends to “examine the implications on this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole.”
Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, said that as long as the Swiss government didn’t suspend its bilateral agreements with the EU, they would remain valid, signalling that the EU for now will not terminate either the agreement on the free movement of people or any of the other accords.
However, Schultz stated that it would be “difficult to limit the free movement of citizens and not limit the free movement of services, for example.” He made it clear that if Switzerland is no longer able to fulfil the conditions of the agreement, all other bilateral agreements were at risk.
Currently, about 430,000 Swiss citizens live in the EU, while more than a million EU citizens call Switzerland their home, and another 230,000 commute to their Swiss workplaces daily. Major sectors of the Swiss economy such as construction, the hotel and restaurant industry, and health services depend on foreign workers.
There’s been strong resistance in Switzerland to joining the EU. However, the two entities are bound by at least a hundred bilateral agreements. As regards trade in goods and services, Switzerland is the EU’s third-largest economic partner, while 57 percent of Swiss exports in goods go to EU member states and 78 percent of its imports come from there.
For Andreas Kellerhals, Director of the Europe Institute at the University of Zurich (EIZ), the EU’s reaction to the Swiss vote isn’t just a strategic threat.
“In the eyes of the EU, the Agreement on the free movement of people isn’t negotiable, as freedom of movement is one of its four basic pillars,” Kellerhals told IPS. He points out that in 1999, the EU only agreed to the bilateral path because the Swiss gave in to an accord on the free movement of people.
The Federal Council is now exploring ways to put its relationship with the EU on a new footing, as it hardly sees how immigration quotas could be compatible with the principle of free movement of people.
“Legally, that isn’t possible,” Kellerhals agrees. “Technically, Switzerland could set the quotas high enough so they couldn’t be exceeded; however I don’t think the EU will accept that.”
Further, that strategy would jar with the SVP initiative and allow the right-wing party to further criticise and pressure the Swiss government. No matter how the Federal Council negotiates with the EU, it can only lose.
For foreigners living and working in Switzerland, the vote was a disaster. Or, as Rita Schiavi, member of the executive board of the largest Swiss trade union Unia puts it: “A slap in the face of nearly two million migrants, who have a huge hand in making Switzerland as prosperous at it is.” Schiavi told IPS that migrants are frustrated and alienated.
In concrete, the SVP demands a return to the so-called Saisonnierstatut, a regulation for seasonal workers that had been in place for seven decades. It means that migrant workers wouldn’t be allowed to bring with them their families, that they would depend on their employers, and would risk losing their stay permits in case of unemployment.
“Those who have voted for the SVP initiative regard migrants not as human beings, but as pure workforce,” said Schiavi.
Returning to some kind of Saisonnierstatut wouldn’t just harm affected migrants, but the Swiss economy as a whole. Swiss companies have a strong desire for skilled foreign personnel, who in the future may find Switzerland less attractive than before, despite higher wages.
Switzerland’s economic lobby has long fought the initiative against immigration, as a return to quotas and contingents would complicate their business and reduce planning reliability. “Multinational companies may relocate or strengthen their branches abroad which could threaten the jobs of Swiss employees, too,” said Schiavi.
In Schiavi’s opinion, urgent political action is now required to deal with those worries and fears that had motivated voters to approve the SVP initiative. It’s measures that trade unions have demanded for many years: “We need to reduce wage dumping, improve job protection, introduce measures in the housing sector and set a national minimum wage,” said Schiavi.
For the moment, half of the Swiss population is licking their wounds, while the other half led by the SVP triumphs. Nevertheless, the right-wing effort to regain control over immigration and the Swiss-EU relations may lead to the opposite: to a massive loss in sovereignty. Soon the Swiss delegation travelling to Brussels may have no option but to hope for the EU’s goodwill.
Students Take On the Army
Ayesha Gullalai (left) from the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf is campaigning for an end to military operations. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.
By Ashfaq Yusufzai
Disturbed by civilian casualties and moved by the plight of people living like refugees in their own country, students from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are demanding an end to army operations against militants on their native soil.
“We are sick of military action in FATA as it has not eliminated the Taliban but killed, injured and displaced innocent people,” Khan Bahadar, president of the FATA Students Federation (FSF), tells IPS.
“The tribal population has been facing a hard time since the Pakistan army took control of FATA in 2004. The army, primarily sent to fight Taliban militants, has caused a mass exodus from the conflict area. The insurgents stay unharmed.”"Of late, the youth have become a voice for FATA people.” -- Ayesha Gullalai, a member of the National Assembly
The Taliban took refuge in FATA near the 2,400-km porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan after their government in Kabul was toppled by U.S.-led forces in 2001. As a frontline state in the U.S.-led war on terror, Pakistan began military action against the Taliban in FATA in 2004, triggering mass displacement.
“About 2.1 million people from FATA are now living in the nearby Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. They are in deep distress as they have had to give up their jobs, businesses and farming activity,” says Bahadar, 19, a student at the University of Peshawar.
Many students from FATA were studying in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
FSF was formed last year to build pressure on the government to end military operations in all seven agencies of FATA and facilitate an early return of displaced people to their homes.
Bahadar says the campaign by students from FATA is gathering momentum.
FSF vice-president Burhanuddin Chamkani says, “We have been holding demonstrations in Peshawar and Islamabad to spotlight the problems of our people. Military operations are no solution to prolonged terrorism.”
Chamkani is from the North Waziristan Agency in FATA. He too says civilians have been killed or maimed in military action but the militants remain unscathed.
“At least five people, including women and children, were killed in an army air strike in North Waziristan Jan. 21 in retaliation for a suicide attack on an army convoy that had killed 22 soldiers a day before,” he says.
Another organisation, the Waziristan Students Federation (WSF), is planning to step up its campaign.
Muhammad Irfan Wazir, an office-bearer of the WSF, says around 20,000 youths from FATA are studying in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Most have not been able to visit their families due to terrorism, he says.
“One has to pass through several army checkpoints before reaching their homes in FATA. They are homesick.”
WSF has planned protests, walks and seminars to sensitise the public, army and government.
“We are demonstrating at the University of Peshawar on weekends,” Wazir says. “We are also holding charity events and musical shows to raise money for displaced people living in camps in Peshawar and other areas.”
The responsibility to stop military operations lies with the federal government which directly controls FATA, he says.
“We have staged at least one dozen demonstrations near the Governor’s House to halt military action, but to no avail.”
Muhammad Javid, a teacher at Gomal University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa says the continuing military offensive has angered students, who are actively campaigning against it.
“Students are justified in demanding an end to army action as it has not brought peace to these areas,” he tells IPS.
They are campaigning to ask the government to start talks with the Taliban.
The Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party, which is in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, also believes that dialogue with militants can end the suffering of people in FATA.
“We have been a staunch supporter of peace talks with militants,” PTI’s Ayesha Gullalai, a member of the National Assembly, tells IPS.
She says the federal government is oblivious to the woes of people in her native Waziristan.
“It’s the government’s responsibility to evacuate the civilian population before any action. It is in contravention of the United Nations charter of human rights to kill and injure non-combatants,” she tells IPS. The military doesn’t target civilians deliberately but there are incidents of civilian casualties, she says.
“The campaign by tribal students is welcome. Of late, the youth have become a voice for FATA people.”
Sagheerullah Khan, 20, who lives in a local hostel in Peshawar, is a native of Waziristan. “Unnecessary military operations in FATA coupled with U.S. drone attacks in which mostly innocent people are killed have caused the local population to turn against the government,” he says. This only produces more militants, he says.
“The indiscriminate army shelling poses a constant threat to people.”
Youths from FATA who are studying in Peshawar say they have been raising the issue of civilian deaths with their representatives in the National Assembly and Senate.
The fight to end army operations on their native soil, they say, will go on.
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