More than 80 lives were lost in the twin suicide bombings at a church in Peshawar last month. Half of them were women and children. Our hearts bleed for the victims of terror, but are we doing enough for them?
Are we looking after our vulnerable communities the way we should? Is there anything else that we could do? While we decide on how to deal with terrorism, we should also mitigate the sufferings of the victims as individuals, as a society and as a state.
The Christian community, which was target of the twin suicide bombs, was not happy with the response of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. Some of them blocked GT Road in protest, with the coffins of the victims. It was heartbreaking.
Financial compensation to victims of terrorism is a recognition of the wrong done to them and an obligation of the state to alleviate their suffering. Besides free hospital care, the provincial government announced Rs 500,000 each for those who lost their lives and Rs 200,000 each for the injured. This is a standard compensation package for civilian victims of terror in the province. In Balochistan, the compensation for civilian victims is Rs 1 million. Surprisingly, the lowest grade government servant in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa gets more than Rs 3 million in similar circumstances. There was an understanding that the compensation amount for civilian victims in the province will be increased through an act of parliament, but the act was never promulgated. But it is not clear why such legislation is necessary. The same authority that permits Rs 500,000 can permit Rs 2 million.
[quote]Compensation should be claimed as a right, not as an act of kindness [/quote]
The federation and the three other provinces showed unparalleled magnanimity and solidarity when they allocated 1% of the total divisible pool as cost of damages incurred due to terrorism to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) award. This 1% translates to more than Rs 20 billion per annum. Over the least five years, the province received Rs 100 billion. With such a huge sum at its disposal, the provincial government should have been more caring and compassionate. The federal and provincial governments will be in their right to ask the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for the details and the manner in which these funds were spent, especially on the victims and their families.
Life doesn’t go back to normal on receipt of compensation. What about the people who suffer permanent disability and the families that lose their only bread earner? What is the government’s plan for the rehabilitation of these victims? Does it have one?
Terrorism in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. The country in general and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular have been involved in the war on terror for more than a decade. According to some estimates, more than 20,000 civilians have lost their lives and over 100,000 have been injured in these incidents. The society has been torn apart, the economy has been destroyed, the social fabric is in tatters, and our way of life has been eradicated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about four percent of the population in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suffers from severe psychiatric disorders. A much larger segment of the population suffers from transient mental health problems linked to the stress of living under conditions of conflict and violence.
Pakistanis are supportive as individuals and generous as a society, but we must also exhibit these qualities as a nation. The issues faced by civilian victims of terror have not received much attention from the government, the media or the civil society. Since most victims of terrorism come from poor backgrounds, there has been a lack of effective and organized advocacy for compensation.
We need to sensitize the government on the urgency and importance of the issue and demand establishing a transparent, equitable and effective compensation regime for civilian victims. The present process for the award of compensation is complex, ad hoc and time consuming. It is multi-layered, involving multiple departments at district and provincial levels. The process is initiated at district level by the deputy commissioner’s office, the police and the Health Department. It is finalized at the provincial level by the Home and Finance departments and ultimately paid by the Office of the Chief Minister. It is often driven by political expediency rather than due process and impartiality. It has been noted that the provincial governments tend to award a better compensation package, in a more timely and efficient manner, to those victims of terrorism who belong to a strong pressure group. On the other hand, most of those who don’t have a support base are unable to receive appropriate and timely compensations under this arrangement. In short, there is no legal framework under which the government can be made answerable. That legal framework needs to be put in place at the earliest.
The legislation should increase the amount of compensation for civilian victims from Rs 500,000 to Rs 2 million. Secondly, an office should be set up at the provincial level with the sole responsibility of ensuring that the victims get timely compensation.
At the district level, a facilitation cell should be set up at the DC office to and ensure that the victims and their families complete all necessary documentation before applying for compensation. There should be no discrimination in the compensation package. Finally, the government should give timelines to the departments concerned to complete all formalities and pay the compensation. Focus should be on the most vulnerable groups, as their economic plight is aggravated while trying to secure monetary assistance.
The government concludes its responsibility by paying compensation for life and limbs. It does not compensate for the property damaged, permanent disabilities, and rehabilitation of victims (including education and healthcare of dependent children). A special fund of pensions under statutory provisions needs to be created for the victims and their families, especially those suffering permanent disability. Compensation should be claimed as a right, and not as an act of kindness.
Have we heard that PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE. Instead of keeping the dole ready for disbursement, why not utilize it in eradication of terror, terrorist, and terrorism. start from the scratch. start with the childre. give them sensible useful meaningful truthful education. educate all poor, men and women on their responsibilities . catch old of all brave fanatics. confiscate all arms. seal borders. use them for road building, school building.
It is easier said than done. but make a beginning. Now.
I think the author had raised valid points and presented an excellent case. The victims of terrorism need to treated as such and should b rehabilitated with priority. It will also convey the massage to the terrorist & keep the morals of public high to stand with the government policies. Suggested measures in the article are to get the victims back their feet again & normalize life immediately. These victims should not be treated as victim of any other natural disaster. This disaster is created by policies of government & the remedy of the same should be posted by the government immediately by standing beside them. And all citizens should be treated equally whether working for government or are based in any province or bow their head in whatever direction. Regarding the suggestions made in session, can only come from a person who’s standing in shallow waters and doesn’t understand the depth of the River and still using it with old theories. Long term solutions are not for disasters but are for long term plans and strategies, not victims, please.
The author has made a very good case for increase in the compensation package of terrorism victims.I sincerely hope that his suggestions are taken seriously by the KPK Government and are implemented in letter and spirit immediately.As a long term solution it is suggested that for a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan we must make Pakistan a welfare state instead of a security state. If this is not done our defense expenditure coupled with debt servicing is bound to consume all our available resources n would bring us to a point where due to paucity of resources we would be fighting among ourselves. So let us advocate a no war pact with India with China and America as gaurantors and reduce our debt burden. The money so saved can then be invested in health and education thus improving the quality of life of a common citizen.We must remember that the Red Army despite being the largest army of the world could not save Russia from dismemberment due to economic conditions.