Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Pakistan

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Pakistan, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 30 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 IDPsAt least 900,000
Percentage of total populationAt least 0.5%
Start of current displacement situation2006
Peak number of IDPs (Year)3,000,000 (2009)
New displacementAbout 190,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index145

Conflict between insurgents and government armed forces, and local sectarian and tribal conflicts have displaced millions of people within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in Pashtu-dominated Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in north-west Pakistan since 2007. Many of the people displaced returned home between mid-2009 and mid-2011, in particular to northern and central areas of FATA, but information on the outcomes of these returns has remained limited.

According to official statistics, some 850,000 people from FATA remained internally displaced at the end of 2011; ongoing insecurity, the destruction of infrastructure and land disputes all continued to obstruct their return. More than 150,000 people were forced from their homes in 2011, most of them fleeing insecurity and fighting in Khyber, Kurram and Mohmand agencies in FATA.

According to the FATA Disaster Management Authority and the national IDP survey published in July 2011, around 90 per cent of IDPs would prefer to return to their places of origin than to integrate locally or resettle elsewhere. However, despite their stated desire to return, local integration was the only realistic settlement choice for hundreds of thousands of them. During the year, the government declared a number of areas to be "cleared" of suspected militants and informed IDPs that they could return to their homes. However, the lack of security guarantees in return areas and the difficulties in recovering abandoned property both stood in their way. Overall, poorer IDPs could not afford to remain in displacement and so returned, while better-off IDPs bought land in KPK and sought to integrate there.

10,000 registered IDPs from Mohmand agency displaced to the Nahaqai and Danishkool camps in early 2011 had returned to their areas of origin by November, as had some 23,000 households displaced from Orakzai during 2010. 6,600 of around 42,000 families displaced from South Waziristan returned. However, the government did not report on the progress of IDPs towards other durable solutions.

Government statistics showed that the displaced population was, like the general population, young and roughly equally divided between men and women. The statistics highlighted that 60 per cent of IDPs were children. The vast majority of internally displaced households were headed by men.

Nearly all displaced households were better off before they fled their homes. Those who had more resources before fleeing continued to enjoy better living conditions once displaced, while those who were poorer prior to displacement remained more marginalised in their places of refuge. While most internally displaced men could access work, with a resulting fall in wages for all workers in places of refuge, a national IDP survey suggested that most internally displaced families were highly vulnerable in economic terms. Seven out of ten were living below the national poverty line. Being able to pay rent was their greatest concern along with access to food and water.

The impact of internal displacement on women has been particularly significant. Food and other assistance including cash support have mainly been channelled through registered male heads of internally displaced households. Due to the demands which purdah (honour) places on women, internally displaced women and girls in crowded and unfamiliar environments, and women who have fled without the male head of their household, may have faced complete exclusion, particularly in camps where they have no male host family members to live with. Together, these factors have left displaced women, including older women, second wives and those seen as dependant on a male relative, with reduced access to assistance and essential services.

The government, assisted by the international community, has provided food, household items, temporary shelters and cash assistance to millions of IDPs, preventing a large-scale humanitarian crisis. However, since 2007, there have been significant limitations in the response due to access challenges for humanitarian actors. Rural populations in or near areas affected by conflict or insecurity, who may have the greatest humanitarian needs, have had limited access to assistance.

The government had yet to develop a comprehensive national policy on IDPs at the end of 2011. Since 2007, the government's budget allocation for IDPs has not been able to meet the needs, and humanitarian assistance has largely depended on the support of local and international communities.

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