The North Waziristan military operation that began in July last year and manned by two armoured divisions appears to have reached a stage where the authorities have started to send a number of the area’s displaced residents back to the region. An official of the Fata Disaster Management Authorities (FDMA) has said that over 300 families have already been shifted back to North Waziristan.
The operation saw the displacement of millions with the FDMA saying some 107,000 families shifted from North Waziristan when the offensive began.
Many of these displaced families either started living independently in rented homes or with relatives in various districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), whereas several other families stayed in Bannu where the government established camps. According to the FDMA, 3,278 families currently reside in these camps.
The government recently decided to send back the displaced to cleared areas of North Waziristan in four phases. The first phase in this regard began on March 31 with some 87 families rehabilitated to North Waziristan’s Mir Ali district on the first day. During this phase, displaced persons from all 299 villages of the Mir Ali district will be sent back to their hometowns and the process will complete by April 15, 2016. Officials say all four phases of the return of the displaced are to be completed by July 16 next year.
According to an FDMA official, over 300 families have been shifted back to North Waziristan and the process is under way. Before a family is sent back, they are issued a SIM card and given Rs10,000 for transport expenses while Rs25,000 are provided to each household for other expenses and bank ATM cards are also issued.
However, questions remain regarding the government’s depositing of the said amount into the families’ ATMs. Questions over the issue matter for these families as in the case of Khyber Agency's displaced, many families are yet to receive the promised money despite the issuance of ATM cards.
The government is ensuring that the displaced families return to their respective villages as convoys guarded by the armed forces. General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major General Akhtar Rao told Dawn.com that the houses demolished in the operation would be reconstructed soon, while new solar power systems have been installed in houses in several villages in Mir Ali. Arrangements for clean drinking-water have also been made, he said.
When questioned about the security provided to the rehabilitated displaced persons, General Rao said army units are deployed in the areas along with the local administration's forces and that the returned families would be provided with fool-proof security. Furthermore, the GOC said he had also requested the tribal people to inform the armed forces if they came across any terrorists.
In the registration camps for the displaced who are being sent back to their homes, they are also being provided with one-month rations. The local political administration as well as the army have established a hospital providing all facilities to the displaced. Vaccination for measles, other viral diseases and polio are being administered to children before their departure to North Waziristan.
After nine months of being displaced, the people of North Waziristan are jubilant though their faces betray a sense of fear and need assuaging. The families have asked the government that they be settled with dignity and peace.
Some of the displaced when asked said that the armed forces have assured clearance of majority of the areas in North Waziristan and that they hope to rid the region of militancy. They said they were thankful to the government and the armed forces but expected that more struggle would be needed to improve their lives.
- DAWN Group of Newspapers
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