Hearts on The Line in Pakistan

Hearts on The Line in Pakistan
By Ahmed Rashid
Washington Post, June 12, 2009

MARDAN, Pakistan -- Even before the explosion Tuesday at the Pearl Continental Hotel killed at least 16 people in Peshawar, Pakistan was at the center of global attention. Yet for all the concern about terrorism, the world has been stunningly indifferent to the plight of the more than 2.4 million people who have fled the Swat Valley, where the Pakistani army is for the first time seriously attacking the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

If the internally displaced Pakistanis are not properly cared for, public opinion, which has shifted dramatically in recent weeks to support the offensive against the Taliban, could once again turn in support of compromise. Last week, the Taliban launched a series of devastating suicide attacks to both divert security forces and cower public opinion. The truck bomb Tuesday night in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan's provincial capital, reportedly injured 70.

The mass exodus from the battle zone to the southern plains has been the largest and fastest displacement of people since the genocide in Rwanda 15 years ago, U.N. officials say. Most of the displaced fled the Swat Valley in just two to three weeks last month.

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