Last Updated: Tuesday, 02 September 2014, 13:52 GMT

Pakistan: Rough ride for bomb blast victims and their families

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 30 July 2012
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Pakistan: Rough ride for bomb blast victims and their families, 30 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5017869e2.html [accessed 3 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

With bombs causing nearly 600 deaths and over 1,400 injuries in Pakistan in the first half of 2012 alone, a new scheme to help those directly affected by such explosions is being put to the test.

In November 2011 the government decided to provide an assistance package for victims of "terrorist" attacks under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which was set up in 2008 with initial government funding of US425 million and is designed to help the needy.

Muhammad Ahsan, a media assistant at BISP, told IRIN: "We are currently assisting some 1,500 blast victims with a stipend of Rs 1,000 [US$11] per month. He said the amount was the same as that offered to other families across the country - and was given out as cash.

Ahsan explained that the verification process to determine who is a victim is carried out by the National Database and Registration Authority. "There are some problems involved in this, as many terrorism victims come from tribal areas, and may lack documentation. This is especially true for women. In this case we seek help from local union councillors or other officials to ensure the claim is correct," he said, adding: "The stipend helps support family income and offers some help."

Thousands of victims need help, with violence "peaking in the country after 2001, when Pakistan made the crucial decision to join the US as an ally in the war against Taliban militants," according to Peshawar-based analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai. He told IRIN: "Civilians have become caught up in this conflict."

According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal maintained by the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, 598 people were killed and 1,453 injured in various blasts up to 22 July. Previous years have also been violent, with 1,508 killed in 2009, for example. The figures are based on news reports.

"It is vital for the future of our country that the militants are defeated, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, minister of information for Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province, who lost his own son in a 2010 attack, told IRIN.

But many families of victims are most concerned about their own future. Kulsoom Bibi, 50, who lost her husband and eldest son in a 2009 blast at a Peshawar bazaar, now lives with her sister in Rawalpindi, a city adjoining Islamabad. "We lost two wage-earners in that blast. My son was only 22. My two teenage daughters and I now sew, to keep my youngest son, Arsalan, 13, at school as I do not like to depend on my brother-in-law, but we earn little and I worry my son may have to drop out of school."

She said she had not heard of the BISP programme, but commented: "What can such a small amount bring us anyway?"

Livelihoods lost

Livelihoods have been lost as a result of blast injuries. Hazar Gul, 60, who says he was injured in both legs following a 2006 blast in Bajaur, now begs on a Rawalpindi roadside. "I used to drive a wagon, but of course I can no longer do that. My sight has also been affected by the explosion," he told IRIN.

Sometimes the authorities "compensate" blast victims by distributing cheques among the heirs of victims or those injured in such attacks.

"In some cases cheques handed over at ceremonies have proved very difficult to cash, as these victims - especially women - lack documents like national ID cards… Also [some] people have no bank accounts so cheques in their names are very hard to cash," a government official in Peshawar who asked not to be named, told IRIN, adding: "I have seen families of those killed in bomb blasts suffer - sometimes for years.

Psychological problems

Twelve-year-old Adnan Hussain, who lost nine family members in the same Peshawar blast, says he is "very depressed" and feels today that there is no point in building "any life for myself".

"Psychological problems are common among people caught up in blasts, or those who have lost relatives in them, but sadly, mainly because of their socio-economic backgrounds, few seek professional help," Rubina Shaheen, a psychologist at a private hospital in Rawalpindi, told IRIN.

There have also been concerns about delays by patients injured by blasts in seeking treatment, leading to serious medical complications, or poor treatment offered by hospitals in remote areas.

Fawad Khan, health director for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), told the media in 2010: "A combination of medical facilities destroyed by militants, poverty and a lack of education among FATA residents are why people are not getting the treatment they need right away, resulting in amputations and deformities," he said.

The situation remains largely unchanged today. Fruit vendor Muhammad Dawar Khan, 40, was injured in both legs in a blast targeting a bus in Peshawar in June 2012.

"Doctors at the time just bandaged both shins, but I have been feeling sharp pain continuously and have now been told after X-rays that I have metal embedded in one leg and will need surgery to remove it. I need to find a way to pay for this surgery, and also make up for the time taken off work," he said.

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