Update on Displacement and Civilian Casualties in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province from Amnesty International

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302,
Laura Spann: lspann@aiusa.org

 

Update on Displacement and Civilian Casualties in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province from Amnesty International

WASHINGTON - The Pakistan government must
begin to provide assistance to at least 65,000 civilians who have fled
fighting between Pakistani Taliban and government forces in Lower Dir district
of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Amnesty International said
today.

The need for systematic assistance to the
displaced population is all the greater as Amnesty International is now
observing civilians beginning to stream out of neighboring Buner district,
where government forces have launched attacks using artillery and aerial
bombardment.

"There is no sign that the central Pakistan
government has prepared for the exodus of civilians," said Sam Zarifi,
Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director. "As the military operations
spread, most likely to Swat next, the government has to ensure that the
fleeing civilians have adequate food, shelter, and health care."

The Pakistani NGO Al Khidmat told Amnesty
International in Timergara, the main town in Lower Dir, that it had registered
at least 65,000 displaced people. As the operations apparently ended after
four days, Al Khidmat said it was the only group assisting the displaced
population, without any assistance from the central government.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban issued a
written warning to journalists in Timergara, Dir, threatening them if they
persisted in presenting material against the Taliban and the Nizam-e Adl
regulation that gave the Taliban administrative control over a wide swath
of NWFP. The Pakistani Taliban warned journalists would be tried in the
Taliban's Sharia courts and called the press club in Timergara today,
threatening to send a car full of explosives.

"The Taliban's warning against journalist
shows again their absolute disdain for human rights," Zarifi said. "The
Taliban have consistently jeopardized the well-being of the people living
under their control."

Update on the situation in Maidan tehseel
(subdistrict) Lower Dir:

 
The District Hospital in Timergara confirmed
a total of 13 civilians killed during the fighting, including eight civilians
killed today: two women, a boy, and five men (two of them primary school
teachers).

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International in
Timergara that at least 28-30 houses had been completely destroyed while
dozens of houses have been partially damaged.

Civilians told Amnesty International that
security forces had warned civilians to evacuate their villages during
the operations. Locals reported use of helicopter gunships and heavy artillery
again today, though the fighting seemed to have ended by day's end.

On Wednesday, most businesses in Timergara
observed a general strike and several towns in Lower Dir witnessed demonstrations
against the army operations. The demonstrations were attended by local
workers and leaders of most of Pakistan's major parties.

Update from Buner:

Amnesty International observed hundreds of
civilians leaving Buner district as the Pakistani army and Frontier Corps
units launched operations around 4 p.m. Wednesday (in U.S. EDT, 6 p.m.
on Tuesday, April 28), using jet fighters and helicopter gunships. Forces
were moved from Mardan through the area known as Bakhshali, according to
our sources in Buner.

Thousands of people are arriving in adjacent
Sawabi and Mardan districts. Security forces have
asked the people fleeing the area not to
move in small groups as they might get hit because the Taliban are also
moving in small groups. Curfew has been announced in all the main towns
on the main road starting from Shehbaz Garaha till Ambela, Buner. Those
who are leaving Buner for safer places are facing difficulties because
of the curfew.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

 

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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