PESHAWAR: The federal government has directed the Fata Disaster Management Authority to prepare a contingency plan for thousands of families likely to be uprooted after a military operation in North Waziristan Agency, an official told Dawn on Saturday.
The official said about 50,000 families (roughly 500,000 individuals) could be displaced from the agency, where speculations about the military operation against militants have been doing the rounds for quite some time.
The army has deployed over 20,000 troops, including two wings of the Frontier Corps, in the agency. The region is regarded as a bastion of Al Qaeda and Taliban.
“The FDMA has received directives from the federal authorities to chalk out a plan in consultation with the United Nations’ agencies and other humanitarian bodies to cope with the displacement,” he said.
Knowledgeable sources said the federal government had not set any timeframe for completion of the contingency plan, but the FDMA had been asked to keep the plan ready.
“We have been asked by the authorities to complete the task as soon as possible, but we have no idea about the timing of a military offensive,” the sources said.
The US government has been pressuring Islamabad, since the Times Square (New York) bomb plot in which a Pakistani national Faisal Shahzad was arrested in May last year, to launch an operation against militant groups, particularly the Haqqani network, to dislodge them from their redoubt in North Waziristan. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed that it had masterminded the car bomb plot.
Islamabad, however, has stuck to the line that it alone would take a decision on the launch of an operation, citing lack of resources as the biggest handicap.
The FDMA, according to officials, had alerted the UN and its satellite organisations to the likelihood of a big displacement in the event of an operation, advising them to make provisions for shelter, food and other assistance.
They said that sites would be identified and selected for relief camps after consultations with the UN and other stakeholders.
According to official estimates, 50 per cent of the families feared to be displaced would take shelter in relief camps and the rest would settle with relatives and in rented houses.
Sources said camps were likely to be set up in neighbouring districts.
About financial resources, they said UN agencies had expressed willingness to foot the bill for tents, food, NFIs, water, sanitation and health. Officials said the average cost of a tent was 310 dollars.
The FDMA is already looking after 148,893 registered displaced families (over 1.1 million individuals) which had been displaced due to violence and subsequent military actions in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata).
About 23,505 families have been living in camps and 125,388 other displaced families have been staying with their relatives.
A recent military action in Mohmand Agency caused the displacement of some 6,000 families. They were accommodated in two camps.
On the other hand, the IDPs displaced from Orakzai and South Waziristan agencies have started returning home.