Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Bush pressures Pakistan to mount an election-season crackdown on al-Qaeda, and what's the consequence? A refugee crisis and bulldozed houses:

The Pakistani Army, backed by United States intelligence and surveillance, has stepped up its operations against supporters of Al Qaeda in the area near the Afghan border in recent weeks, displacing thousands of Afghan refugees.

Some 200,000 Afghan refugees have been living in the remote border areas of Pakistan, in poor and insecure conditions. In the past few weeks, as the Pakistani operations in the tribal area of South Waziristan have risen in strength and, according to some reports, prompted a matching increase in militant resistance, 25,000 people have poured back into Afghanistan, refugee officials said....

Refugees have been given as little as two hours' notice to leave before their houses were bulldozed, according to officials with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Some have returned to Afghanistan with no belongings, homeless once again.

The Pakistani authorities have acknowledged closing and bulldozing two refugee camps, Zarinoor 1 and Zarinoor 2, in South Waziristan. A Pakistani official in Kabul said the government had decided to dismantle all camps within about three miles of the border "as part of a cleanup of the area, so militant-saboteurs would have no place for asylum."

"Inevitably that caused hardship to families," he said. "It's unfortunate, but it had to be done as part of the overall campaign against terrorism." ...

I imagine it will be absurdly easy to radicalize some of these refugees now. Great -- mission accomplished.

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