Laiba is a seven year old girl who lives in Pakistan. Like kids everywhere, she likes to look at magazines. She keeps with her some pictures she cut out from them. But these are not pictures of a movie star. Instead, these are of girls with prosthetic legs.
Laiba had her foot shot off by the Frontier Corps, a Pakistani paramilitary group. She was simply in the car with her uncle when the forces mistook them to be hostile. Instead of getting proper compensation from the government, her family has been told to keep quiet. Laiba’s father was even locked up and beaten for two days by the Frontier Corps. The family needs about 2,000 dollars a year so Laiba can have prosthetics.
Seven year old Laiba lost part of her leg from a Pakistani military error. She has also suffered a severe infection. Proper compensation has not been established by the government of Pakistan, nor the U.S., for innocent victims of the conflict. (CIVIC photo)
For families already living in poverty, this is no small amount. Compensation from the government is needed by Laiba and many other families victimized by military strikes. Often though, there is little or no compensation from the warring parties.
Civilians are frequently caught in the crossfire as the Pakistani government has been conducting assaults against militant groups, including the Taliban. The U.S. has also taken action against the militants by using drone planes. But these are not battles in open fields like the Civil War. The targets are often very close to civilian quarters and as a result, there have been many innocent people struck or their homes damaged.
The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) says that all the warring parties in Pakistan, including the U.S., need to take more responsibility for the protection of civilians and compensation for combat-related injuries. CIVIC says ”that civilian casualties in Pakistan are significant, and in 2009, were even greater than those in Afghanistan.”
CIVIC’s Christopher Rogers interviewed over 160 civilian survivors of military strikes by the government or U.S. in Pakistan. None of these individuals had received much in the way of assistance.
Many victims of war had little to begin with, as CIVIC points out. This is a country with an extremely high rate of poverty and hunger. Any shock can send a Pakistani family into a spiral of utter despair.
Also, a spiral of anger becomes directed toward the Pakistani government and the U.S. Ignoring the wounds of innocent victims of war is not a way to win hearts and minds. One of the Pakistanis interviewed was Hakeem Khan. He said, “If the US and Pakistan continue their aggression, their drone attack policy, the tribal people who are not miscreants [terrorists/militants] will become extremists, so it should be stopped.”
A Pakistani man who lost both arms by a Pakistani tank shell said, “I hold the army responsible. For two or three militants they crush the whole village, and so we are against the army. I am the only member of the family that can support, but I am unable to work… I do not know how we will manage to live.”
There has to be proper compensation for civilian victims of the conflict. It means humanitarian aid for all who need it.
Whether it’s innocent victims of conflict or people displaced by the flooding, they need compassion. That is the often overlooked–yet very powerful–force in international relations. It is desperately needed in Pakistan.
You can read a copy of CIVIC’s report here.