Friday, 15 May 2009

Pakistan - civilians caught again

More than a million people have fled their homes in Pakistan over the last year; 830,000 of them during the last month as the Pakistani government tries to reassert its control over the Taleban stronghold in the Swat valley. Many are pouring out of Mingora, the region’s main city, which has been blockaded by the army.

Food is now said to be very short, and a curfew was lifted to allow people to leave. Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities. One 66 year old man who had escaped said there were bodies in the streets, but it was not clear whether they were fighters or civilians. A family was said to have had to leave behind their son, who has polio, with just a supply of bread and water.

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, said it was the country's worst refugee crisis since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Then a total of 10 million people in the sub-continent took to the roads to try to escape the fearful inter-communal violence and get on the “right” side of the hastily-drawn new boundaries.

Altogether, more than a million died – either murdered, or from the privations and disease of the refugee marches. For more details, see A Disastrous History of the World.

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