You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pakistan faces biggest human flood since 1947

complete story:

Thousands of civilians fled Pakistan's Swat Valley on Sunday after authorities briefly lifted a curfew. Pakistan's army said its war planes killed at least 180 Taliban militants within a 24-hour period in its all-out offensive in northwestern Swat Valley.

The army's casualty figures cannot be independently verified, but the U.N. warns that the fighting is producing one of the world's largest displacements of people. As they gather in makeshift camps, refugees' attitudes conflict about their plight and just who is responsible for the war that has driven them from their homes.

Across the district of Mardan, row upon neat row of tents is going up as the messy business of housing refugees from the conflict next door in Swat Valley picks up pace.

Swat Valley has become the epicenter of the power struggle between the militants and Pakistan forces. International aid agencies say 200,000 people have already escaped the widening conflict there. Another 300,000 are either on the move or trapped by the fighting.

Hundreds seeking help have overwhelmed the sprawling, century-old tuberculosis hospital that's turned into a receiving center in Mardan city. The new arrivals jostle each other in long lines. A full-throated official, or nazim, steps in as the heat bears down and patience wears thin. "It is our duty as Muslims to support you," he said to applause.

"Within two or three weeks you'll be back home and, God willing, those terrorists in the name of Taliban will be destroyed. Maximum three weeks."

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