With three years of devastating floods putting the lives and livelihoods of at least four million citizens at risk, and military operations against militants displacing thousands more in the conflict zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan’s humanitarian crises need urgent domestic and international attention. Since the democratic transition began in 2008, some progress has been made, but much more is needed to build the federal and provincial governments’ disaster and early recovery response. Efforts to enhance civilian ownership and control have also had mixed results, particularly in the conflict zones, where the military remains the dominant actor. To effectively confront the challenges, the most urgent tasks remain to strengthen the civilian government’s capacity to plan for and cope with humanitarian crises and to prioritise social sector and public infrastructure development. It is equally important that all assistance and support be non-discriminatory and accompanied by credible mechanisms for citizens to hold public officials accountable.
The military’s suspicions of and animosity toward foreign actors undermine efforts to improve the humanitarian community’s coordination with government agencies, and allegations that humanitarian aid is a cover for foreign intelligence activity threatens staff and beneficiaries’ security. Radical Islamist lobbies, including militant groups opposed to donor involvement, exploit the gaps in assistance. Sporadic, selective, and heavy-handed military operations have, in 2012 alone, displaced hundreds of thousands, particularly in FATA’s Khyber Agency. While conflict-induced displacement is now on a lesser scale in KPK’s Malakand region than in the spring of 2009, when a major military offensive against Swat-based militants displaced 2.8 million, the army’s failure to root out militancy has resulted in constant displacements.