"It is a religious duty [and] it is also the culture of the Pashtuns that you give shelter to guests and the needy," says Muhammad Saleem, a doctoral candidate researching the region's social safety net. "When the state is absent from these duties, people have to fill in the gaps."
The state is also responding. On the outskirts of town, a refugee camp named Chota Lahore now houses more than 5,000 displaced people with an average of 90 new families coming each day. The camp offers four meals a day, makeshift schools for girls and boys, and 98 latrines. But it's located in an isolated, hot, dustbowl – generating complaints that have prompted authorities to order it moved to a new spot that can hold 14,000 people in tents.
Overall, the number of people displaced by the conflict stands at more than 500,000, according to United Nations figures. Some Pakistani officials Wednesday put it at 800,000.
In a repeat of scenes after the devastating 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, residents have been driving up to the camps to drop off food, drinking water, and hand fans, says Mr. Saleem. He and a group of students back at his university in the Netherlands have pooled together 3,500 euros, which they will use to buy supplies: pillows, lighting, mattresses, and hand fans.
But perhaps the most impressive donations are the open doors.
Making room for 150 guests
Fazli Rabbi, a farmer in Swabi, welcomed some relatives from Buner into his home, providing lodging for 150 people.
It's meant a few adjustments for his family of 13. The family removed all the beds and laid down carpets to sleep on instead. The kitchen in his 2,000 square-foot home no longer suffices, so they now cook outdoors. The baking of bread in a tandoor oven – a chore that once took 30 minutes – now stretches from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.