WASHINGTON: The conflict in Pakistan has exacted an immense toll on civilians, but the US and Pakistani governments, aid agencies and even military officials pay little attention to their plight, says a US pressure group which works for civilian victims caught in armed conflicts. The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, a Washington-based NGO, notes that there were probably more civilian casualties – 2,100 deaths – in Pakistan in 2009 than in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The civilian casualties, the group warns, will have substantial humanitarian and security consequences, causing the Pakistani government to lose its credibility. “Losses have a long-lasting and devastating impact on civilians’ lives, provoke anger, and undermine the legitimacy of the Pakistani government,” warns the author, Christopher Rogers. “CIVIC’s research in Pakistan shows that war victims demand and expect warring parties to recognise their losses and make amends to help them recover.”
But the report regrets that despite the severity and consequences of these losses, civilian casualties “receive too little attention from US, Pakistani, and donor-nation policymakers, as well as military officials”.
The report, however, notes the Pakistani government has created a compensation mechanism for deaths, injuries and property damage and the US Congress last year appropriated $10 million or a special fund to aid civilian war victims in Pakistan.
Despite these burgeoning efforts, CIVIC’s research shows serious deficiencies and gaps in care that leave many victims without recognition or assistance. Many war victims are losing hope that the Pakistani government will make good on its promise to provide compensation. Others must cope with devastating conflict losses while also being displaced, particularly following record floods in August.
Some of the findings of the research are as follows: Significant civilian casualties are caused by Pakistani military operations; US drone strikes, militant and terror attacks, and other forms of conflict-related violence such as unexploded ordnance and sectarian clashes.
Interviewees expected better behaviour in combat operations from Pakistani and US forces than from militants. There is no governmental or military mechanism that systematically and publicly investigates or collects data on civilian casualties.
The lack of accurate information on civilian casualties, including tracking of incidents, causes, and locations, inhibits the ability of civilian and military authorities to learn lessons and minimise civilian casualties. It also prevents authorities as well as humanitarian and development organisations from identifying and assisting war victims.
Deaths, injuries and property losses are greatly compounded by widespread poverty and displacement. The death of a husband often means the loss of a key breadwinner. The death of a wife often leaves children and their household without the primary caretaker.
Input from Agencies