In recent weeks it has been widely reported that many international and national development agencies have been forced to stop their work in Pakistan in the face of threats from the Taliban.
Local residents examine a destroyed school building, which was allegedly blown up by Islamist militants in Pakistan's volatile Swat valley
At a time when many parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas urgently need development and reconstruction work, local Taliban militants are increasing the pressure on aid organisations by mounting suicide attacks, sending threatening letters, and issuing religious decrees. Inspired by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, they aim to force the NGOs to pack up and leave the area. According to a UNHCR report, Taliban intimidation has made about 35,000 families homeless, that is an estimated 300,000 people.
However a UNHCR Spokesman in Islamabad Anwaar Ul Haque denies that the International NGO's consider stopping their development work in the tribal areas completely. Refugees, known as Internally Displaced People, or IDPs in official jargon, are still receiving help, he told DW:
"UN agencies, national and International are in constant touch with the national authorities, also on provincial and district levels. The Government is trying to provide means to continue their work. A considerable number of IDPs are in the camps in safer zones like Peshawar, Nawshehra, Charsada and Deeir".
Focus on reconstruction
Until recently the Pakistani government was allowed to carry out reconstruction work as long as these projects were implemented in consultation with the local Taliban leaders. But recently, a militant group headed by Hafiz Gul Behadur ordered local tribesmen not to support development projects, including the construction of schools and hospitals if they were run either by the army or by foreign NGOs.
There is little hope that the situation will improve. The Taliban have been encouraged by recent military successes and are beginning to expand their area of operations beyond North Waziristan, Bajaur and Swat to Kurram Agency, Mohmand Agency and Khyber Agency. Indeed, as a sign of the Taliban’s growing potency, militants succeeded in blowing up a bridge and cutting the road through the Khyer Pass on Tuesday. Such attacks destabilise the area further and worsen the situation facing the civilian population.
No victory in sight
Analyst Raheemullah Yusufzai explains: "The military the armed forces the Government, they have suffered heavily at the hands of the militants. I think everybody was underestimating the strength of the militants. The Army has tried to enter those areas but the troops were attacked and they suffered casualties. If timely action had been taken may be the situation would have been under control".
The Pakistani army claims to successfully fight the Taliban in the Swat valley, but a decisive victory is not in sight. Meanwhile the human cost is mounting daily. According to estimates, more than 1200 soldiers and 10,000 security personnel and civilians have been killed in the region in the last eight years. Some estimates say more than half a million people have been displaced in the tribal areas and North-West Frontier Province. And they depend on NGOs to provide them with assistance.