Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 09:24 GMT

Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2009 - Pakistan

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 17 May 2010
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2009 - Pakistan, 17 May 2010, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
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.
Quick facts
Number of IDPs1,230,000
Percentage of total population0.7%
Start of current displacement situation2008
Peak number of IDPs (Year)3,000,000 (2009)
New displacement3,000,000
Causes of displacementInternal armed conflict
Human development index141

North-west Pakistan saw the biggest and fastest conflict-induced internal displacement in the world in 2009. At least three million people fled fighting between insurgents and security forces. Many were able to return after hostilities ended but at least 1.2 million remained displaced at the end of the year.

Since 2002 the, Pakistani Taliban has combined a radical theological agenda with anti-NATO rhetoric to threaten tribal institutions and state authorities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and later North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). After the breakdown of a peace deal between the Pakistani Taliban and the government, the army moved into the Swat Valley in NWFP in May 2009. Encouraged by the security forces, more than two million people fled towards the Peshawar Valley, and by late June, 2.1 million IDPs had been registered by the government, of which 85 per cent were staying with host families.

In July, the government and the UN signed a return policy framework, following which 1.6 million IDPs were encouraged to return. Some returnees were then displaced again as they found the areas were still unsafe, and their property and means of livelihoods destroyed. By December 2009, at least 370,000 people remained displaced.

During the second half of the year, the security forces relaunched operations against the Pakistani Taliban-led tribal militias in FATA. Some 190,000 people were displaced from Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber and Orakzai Agencies, adding to 550,000 people who remained displaced after fleeing sectarian violence, Taliban abuses and military operations there in 2008. Out of all these groups, an estimated 450,000 people were still displaced in FATA at the end of the year, the vast majority staying with host families or in rented accommodation.

Finally, during October and November, up to 430,000 civilians fled another army offensive in South Waziristan in FATA, over half the population of that province. Fighting, roadblocks, and their lack of resources prevented other civilians from leaving the areas of conflict. At least 290,000 people remained displaced in the neighbouring districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank at the end of 2009.

Restrictions on humanitarian and media access made it hard to evaluate the difficulties facing returnees; meanwhile the prospects for effective local integration seemed slim.

The national response was significant. The National Database and Registration Authority registered the IDPs and issued them with national identity cards. However, the process was not universally applied: many IDPs who had been displaced from areas which the government did not recognise as conflict areas, or from tribes associated with militant groups, were excluded from this process. Some women-headed households also struggled to obtain an identity card, but a considerable number of displaced women did obtain one for the first time.

Initial assessments indicated that the IDPs, who were mostly in an urban environment where they relied on savings and support from relatives, primarily needed cash to pay for food, rent and utilities. Registered IDPs in NWFP were thus equipped with cash cards credited with $300 per family. Many of those displaced in FATA similarly received cash cards but with only $60 per family. In addition, UN-led agencies provided food assistance to 4.3 million people and health services to several hundred thousand IDPs.

Specific groups had particular protection needs. A higher proportion of internally displaced women than men had difficulties in accessing basic services, and were forced to move or return against their will. They also more frequently experienced family separation and intra-family violence. Internally displaced men were more concerned about replacing lost identity cards and the looting of livestock and property during displacement.

The military offensive resulted in widespread destruction of infrastructure and the loss of livelihoods for pastoral and farming communities. 77 hospitals were destroyed or damaged, and many of the 4,500 schools used as shelter for IDPs were not reopened by the end of the year. In an attempt to address this, the government initiated a post-crisis needs assessment exercise supported by the World Bank, the UN, the Asian Development Bank and the European Commission, to build consensus on recovery and peacebuilding strategies.

The limited information on displacement in Balochistan Province indicated that clashes between the army and Baloch separatists displaced up to 60,000 people in Bugti district in 2009. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani recognised the difficult situation of the IDPs in a speech to parliament in December and offered $12 million for their rehabilitation and settlement as part of the Balochistan Support Package. However, despite the acknowledgement of the displacement, the Package was rejected by nationalists.

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