Fri. Nov 27th, 2020

Agony of the victims of Attabad disaster

Liaqat Karim

Back in summer I was in Hunza on a break enjoying the warm sunny days of the beloved land. Once I was in Karimabad market where I saw a kid having a fancy hair cut with a stylish wear roaming around during the school hours. I asked his father’s name from him and he replied “I am an IDP”. The reply was simple but it has a thousand messages for the authorities of the area. Was that the identity of that kid? Is he still living in the fear of being an IDP? What about his education? Were the social impacts of the disaster taken into account before deciding anything about the IDPs? How many generations of these affectees will call themselves IDPs? After a period of more than four years the affectees still are in the agony. They have suffered their social life due to poor planning and mismanagement of the authorities. Back in 2010 the camps were established based on the ease of settlement of the mob. Indeed it was required at that time but later the authorities should have performed a Social Condition Assessment of the disaster and should have considered the impacts of scattering the IDPs. The impacts of such scattering are now obvious, on the life of effectees as well as the life of the host communities, where the camps were established.

These four years of suffering has resulted in some behavioral changes in both the affectees of the Attabad and the local residents of Altit and Karimanabad. These changes have led the affectees to a rebellious behavior where they think the government and the natives are against them and are trying to suppress them. No doubt the host communities have always proved their love and brotherhood for the affectees and have helped them in every manner but when you mix two villages into one, the ideas differ and at times this diversity of ideas creates misunderstanding. I witnessed a similar situation in Karimabad Hunza where an IDP family shifted to an old house and the native neighbors were not good with that. The natives weren’t happy because they had some bad experience with a similar family living in the vicinity. I wasn’t able to decide whether the IDPs were right or the natives but I was sure about the poor planning and mismanagement of the local authorities which has led these both communities to confront each other in such critical situation.

Compensation, food and other things were catered to the affectees but no planning was made for their permanent settlement. The IDPs should have been compensated with a piece of land, to flourish new Attaabad. The social life in GilgitBaltistan varies from village to village and town to town. Mixing the affectees of one area with residents of another village may be best solution at the time of emergency situations as the Ataabad disaster but It is not a permanent solution. In longer terms the authorities should have planned something better to safeguard the social setup and social integrity of the affectees. Only few families among the affectees have settled elsewhere in the country or have integrated themselves into the community where they are currently based. Most of the victims are still living as IDPs. “Limits of hospitality” of the locals are natural and hence may create confusion between the affectees and the local residents in future too.

In a nut shell, the authorities shall take serious steps to ensure proper settlement of the Attabad affectees and shall bring them out from the agony they are living in from last four years. We live in a vulnerable area where the probability of natural disasters is high and we shall prepare ourselves to encounter such disasters with more courage, better planning and effective management practices. In future such disasters shall be properly handled. The authorities and community organizations shall take serious steps for mitigation in disruption of the social fabrics of the families.

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