MIRAMSHAH/BANNU: The 15-day deadline given by the government to North Waziristan-based tribes to expel militants from their area has sent shockwaves through the volatile region and forced people to leave their hearth and home for safety.
Miramshah, the headquarters of the tribal agency, presented a deserted look on Saturday. Most shopkeepers either kept their shutters down or were busy shifting valuable items to their homes.
Local and foreign militants, who frequently roam the main bazaar, have gone into hiding. A good number of them are reported to have shifted to the mountainous Shawal area, near the Afghan border.
Residents have already left Mirali, the second major town in North Waziristan.
People were seen packing their belongings to leave the area. But many families were unable to move because most transporters took their vehicles off the road. And those who have not done so as yet are charging prohibitive amounts. They have raised the Bannu-Miramshah fare to Rs1,000 from Rs2000.
There are many families in Waziristan which have relatives in Afghanistan. A good number of such people have already begun a perilous trek to the border, going through treacherous routes as security forces have blocked the road to Ghulam Khan, the main border town. A checkpost in the area has been wound up.
Speaking to a 64-member jirga of the Uthmanzai tribe from North Waziristan Agency in Peshawar on Friday, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and Corps Commander Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani had given 15 days to the tribes to expel militants from their area or face action.
GUL BAHADUR’S WARNING: Earlier, Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur had given a warning to the populace to leave the area by June 10. A pamphlet carrying his name asked people not to take refuge in camps set up by the government for displaced people and instead move to the Afghan border.
An official of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) told Dawn that the arrival of 33,473 members of 2,415 displaced families in Bannu district had been registered at a checkpost by Friday and more people were on the way.
Site for a relief camp has been selected at Bakakhel, in Frontier Region Bannu. Officials said that the PDMA had sent 10,000 tents and other items to Bannu and the deputy commissioner had been appointed as the focal person to look after the relief work in the area.
Formal registration of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has not started, however.
Because of `commander’ Gul Bahadur’s warning, the IDPs have not come to the proposed relief camp, which can accommodate around 200,000 people.
The officials said that the displaced persons were taking shelter with relatives or host families in Bannu and other districts.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2014