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Femaid report on Pakistan: May 2002
FemAid 's president Carol Mann’s trip for FemAid to RAWA in Pakistan
May 14-May 24th 2002.Please click here to see the accompanying photographs taken on the trip.

A report written on the plane back……

Six months after my last trip, I decided to go back to Pakistan, with the purpose of seeing how the projects RAWA and FemAid had put together were doing, how the money had been spent and how we could improve and develop . I brought school supplies, various gifts donated by FemAid supporters and medical equipment- the latter was distributed at the recently renovated Malalai Hospital in Rawalpindi, run for Afghan refugees by RAWA with the help of AWM. At the same time, I undertook anthropological field research on the working of Jalozai II refugee camp where RAWA plays a preponderant role- but this will be the subject of a separate report to be presented at the EHESS in Paris.

What I had n’t realized was that I was travelling to a post 9/11 Asia, where the impact of the tragic events could now be measured.
In December, I had seen orphans who had just arrived in an orphanage in Peshawar, victims of ‘collateral damage’and I had experienced a general feeling of disaster and dismay. By now these children have been somehow integrated into the population of Afghan war victims, disasters and calamities superimposed one on top of the other, the whole thing put into the perspective of a relentless war process which certainly is not perceived as having being finished at their end.

Returning to Afghanistan ? Life in Pakistan for refugees

There is one place outside Peshawar, along the motorway, where huge colourful Pakistani trucks line up, stuffed with mattresses, blankets pots and other humble belongings of Afghan families who want to return to the home- country. A UNHCR office on the side hands out $200 for those returning. Water sellers, match vendors scurry around whilst listless children clamber over the trucks, but the ambiance is certainly joyless, no-one knows for sure, and nobody believes for one instant that Karzai’s Afghanistan is a joyful or even safe place. Women shrouded in their burqas are heaped atop the rolled mattresses - never mind the glib reports on Prime Time about beauty parlours or whatever in Kabul. For one, Afghans have often gone back to Afghanistan in the summer to see their relatives and check out the situation and also escape the unbearable heat in Pakistan. Furthermore, the Pakistani authorities have been extremely tough on Afghans whom they want to get rid of under any conditions. The killing of the French technicians in Karachi on May 8th has been an excuse to round up as many Afghan suspects as possible, of which a handful turned out to be Al Qaida sympathisers – including some who were ‘persuaded’to turn in information about the horrific murder of Daniel Pearl. However justified such investigations, the police, it seems has used the opportunity to harass and arrest Afghans who, most of the time, have become illegal immigrants as their visas have not been renewed. Bribes get one out of arrests, sometimes 20 or 30 rupees will do, as Pakistani police are paid miserably and depend on bribes to survive. But this state of things does threaten the humanitarian situation in many ways. One director of a school run by RAWA, Mr Daoud, said that he was seriously considering giving up work as he was afraid of arrests each time he left the house. And then what happens to the school, I asked - admirably run, thanks to his enthusiasm and the devotion of his staff ? He hunched his shoulders in despair.
RAWA takes a calmer look at things. “ We’re not likely to all go back immediately” says Huma, “It’s impossible ; conditions are just not safe, people’s houses and lives have been destroyed, where do you want them to go ?” Everyone awaits the Loya Jirga with trepidation, their trust is touching. Can one really believe those warlords will be stopped and butchers like Dostum et al will lay down their weapons from one day to the next because a meeting in Kabul declares peace ? In the meantime, RAWA says that schools and orphanages will continue in Pakistan for at least 2 or 3 years. I personally think this will go much beyond, especially in the case of the latter. RAWA’s orphanages are n’t the same as their Western counterparts in that most of the children living there have lost one parent and in some cases might still have both surviving parents, but these are ill or too poor to look after them. So they might ask RAWA to look after their children for a while, especially as there are probably another half a dozen siblings to feed. Sometimes, they are taken in to avoid being sold. It’s as simple and as tragic as that. In the foreseeable future, I predict that a number of families might chose to put their children in safety whilst they themselves attempt to eke out a form of survival in Afghanistan with the hope of reuniting the family members later. This already seems to be a growing tendency.