Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2017, 11:39 GMT

Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Pakistan

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 29 April 2013
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Pakistan, 29 April 2013, available at: [accessed 25 November 2017]
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.
Number of IDPsAt least 758,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 0.4%
Start of displacement situation2004
Peak number of IDPs (year)3,000,000 (2009)
New displacement in 2012At least 412,000
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
✓ Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
x Criminal violence
x Political violence
Human development index146

Military operations against armed opposition groups, and local sectarian and tribal conflicts have caused displacement in Pakistan's volatile north-western region for at least eight years. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are currently worst-affected. As of 31 December 2012, 758,000 people were registered as internally displaced by UNHCR, more than 90 per cent of whom fled FATA for Khyber Paktunkhwa (KP) province. The number of IDPs peaked in 2009, at more than three million, most of them from KP's Malakand region.

According to UNHCR, 412,000 new IDPs from FATA were registered in 2012, while 59,000 people (12,600 families) significantly less than in 2011 returned to the area in voluntary repatriation projects, most of them to the agencies of Kurram, South Waziristan.

UNHCR carried out the registration process on behalf of KP and FATA Disaster Management Authorities, and those able to register as IDPs had most access to assistance. To be eligible, heads of household required a valid national identity card (CNIC) showing two addresses in an area which the government had officially recognised, or "notified" as conflict-affected.

Measures were taken to remove practical barriers to registration, but vulnerable IDPs from locations that were not "notified" were largely excluded from assistance. According to the IDP Vulnerability Assessment and Profiling (IVAP) project, a significant number in KP were unregistered as of the end of 2012.

Households headed by separated or widowed women faced difficulties in accessing assistance as many women did not hold their own CNIC. The need to ensure purdah, or honour, also restricted women's access to food distribution points, and to information and basic services whether on or off camp. Other vulnerable groups, such as the chronically ill and elderly, experienced similar difficulties as a result of their limited mobility.

Military operations in the Bara sub-division of FATA's Khyber agency led to a major influx of IDPs to Peshawar and Nowshera districts of KP in 2012. The Khyber displacement began in January and peaked in mid-March, when 10,000 families a day were arriving at Jalozai displacement camp in KP. By October, more than 280,000 Khyber IDPs had been registered.

Overall, 89 per cent of those displaced chose to live in host communities, rather than seek shelter in one of the region's three IDP camps. Most families who were able to rented houses. That said, Pakistan's total camp population was still substantial in 2012, with 85,000 IDPs, roughly half of whom were under 18, living in Jalozai, Togh Serai and New Durrani camps in the KP area.

According to IVAP, more than 60 per cent of displaced families outside camps live below the poverty line, earning less than 5,000 rupees ($51) a month. The rising cost of housing and competition for jobs has left IDPs in urgent need of food, rental assistance and jobs. Vulnerability has increased over time, and those displaced for longer periods have gone into debt to meet their basic needs after exhausting their other coping mechanisms. Lack of access to documentation, particularly children's birth certificates and CNICs, remains a major protection concern.

According to OCHA, more than 3.6 million IDPs have returned home to KP and FATA since 2009. The government prioritised the return of registered IDPs to "de-notified" areas where it declared military operations over. To ensure the safe and voluntary nature of the return process, the humanitarian community and local authorities were guided by a 2010 return policy framework, though restricted access to some return areas means effective monitoring has not always been possible.

While nearly all IDPs wanted to return, tens of thousands of families were still unable to do so because of persistent insecurity, damage or destruction of their housing and lack of progress in restoring basic services and infrastructure.

With support from the humanitarian community, the government has registered and assisted millions of IDPs and returnees, providing food and non-food items, temporary shelter and essential services. That said, significant limitations remain. Provincial budget allocations were not enough to meet IDPs' needs both in and outside camps, and the humanitarian community experienced a funding shortfall of $79 million during the year.

A much-needed early recovery assistance framework to benefit FATA's returnees had not been endorsed by the federal government as of the end of 2012, and Pakistan was still to develop a comprehensive, national policy on IDPs. Host community and family networks played a major role in supporting vulnerable IDPs, including unregistered IDPs excluded from assistance.

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