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Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 18:42 UK

Bloggers mobilise for Pakistan refugees

Refugees wait for food to be delivered to their tents at a refugee camp in Sangjani, outside Islamabad,
Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting in the Swat valley

Pakistani bloggers and commentators have expressed great concern over the apparent lack of government planning for the people displaced by the military operation in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

The UN says that about 1.5 million people have been displaced since the army's latest offensive began on 2 May, and two million since last August.

Most bloggers were angered by the lack of facilities provided to the internally displaced people (IDPs). Some began online campaigns to raise money and gather food for the victims while others voiced suspicion about the lack of media access to conflict areas.

'Heart wrenching'

Blogger Kalsoom posted on her blog CHUP! Changing Up Pakistan regular updates on the condition of the IDPs in various camps around Pakistan. On 6 May, she compared statistics provided by the BBC, CNN and the United Nations about the number of people homeless.

In the post, Kalsoom used emotive language to generate support for the homeless, saying: "As for us, it is important to remember that IDPs are not beggars living in tents. They are not just a statistic. They are people. And we must also play a role in helping their situation."

Displaced people in Swat
Moving accounts of the displaced people have been posted

She provided a list of 10 separate individuals and organisations working on relief for the IDPs along with their contact details.

On 11 May, Kalsoom published moving accounts of families and other victims forced to flee the fighting in NWFP, in an attempt to convince readers to help. She quoted a Pakistani newspaper's account of how a cart-puller had been forced to leave his children behind.

"When the shelling started, my wife and I ran out to gather the children. It was like hell outside, and we just started running. I realised that my son and my smallest daughter were missing. She is only three but my wife cried and said the rest of us would be killed if we stayed, so we kept going. I have no idea what happened to them."

Kalsoom describes these stories as "heart wrenching" and said that media attention and an international response may "give some hope that our government will be held accountable for the million who are already displaced".

Meanwhile, popular Pakistani blogger Teeth Maestro posted links to real-time Twitter updates to bring readers up to date with media coverage from different camps across Pakistan. On 11 May, he also posted an appeal on his website giving readers a list of different ways to help the IDPs.

"This is an appeal to all individuals, organisations, charities and NGOs in general and nationals of Pakistan in particular, whether resident or expatriates, to come forward and help by extending financial, technical and moral support to hundreds of thousands, feared to be displaced in the Swat crisis. If nothing else, please spread the word," wrote Maestro.

'Scorching heat'

Some bloggers expressed resentment towards the government over the issue of mass migration and appeared to have little hope that the country's leaders would resolve the issue of the IDPs. Maria Sultan, in a post on the Pakistani Spectator entitled "Internally displaced people and foreign displaced leaders", questioned whether it was possible for any of the main party leaders to be able to spend a night in a camp "in this scorching heat, without clean water, beds, proper food, electricity and medicine".

Another blogger, Moin Saddiqui, writing in the Pak Tea House blog on 13 May, expressed concern at the lack of reports in the Pakistani media from the conflict area.

Saddiqui questioned why the army was not allowing journalists to report from the area and described the daily updates delivered by the army spokespersons as being in "measured tones". He compared this to when America invaded Iraq and said: "The US army had given permission to journalists to be embedded in the army units as they charged to Baghdad, so that the people would come to know the state of the war in Iraq. Why can our army not allow journalists to confirm 600 [plus] Taliban killed as Mr Rehman Malik [Pakistan's interior minister] claimed? Are these really Taliban or innocent civilians which are being passed on as Taliban combatants?"

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



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