Rights Group: Hundreds of Thousands of Trapped Swatis Face Catastrophe

2.3 Million Fled, But 200,000 Remain as Shortages Worsen

by Jason Ditz | Antiwar.com, May 26, 2009

Being among the 2.3 million Swat Valley residents who have fled the military’s offensive is not easy. The government-run refugee camps are filled to beyond capacity, and the refugees are not being allowed into neighboring provinces that fear an influx of the displaced.

Yet according to Human Rights Watch, the hundreds of thousands of civilians who remain trapped in the valley have it even worse, facing severe shortages of food, water and medicine in addition to dealing with military curfews, surly militants, and artillery barrages. The group is calling on the military to lift its curfew to allow more civilians to leave.

Swatis in the valley’s northern section have had the hardest time fleeing, with the roads south generally controlled by the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some have attempted to flee north through the mountain passes, but the military has been attacking people along those passes, making that route unsafe.

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