PESHAWAR: Over 6,000 people from Ahmadzai Wazir and other clans have taken refuge in Afghanistan’s Khost province in the aftermath of the recent targeted military action, suggesting the North Waziristan tribesmen consider the neighbouring country safer than their own.
“Keeping in view the long stay and plight of thousands of internally displaced persons of Fata in and off relief camps, I have made my mind to take my family to Afghanistan instead of keeping them in grimy tents in the adjacent Bannu district,” said a tribal elder from Miramshah.
Several families have already crossed over to Afghanistan due to uncertainty.
Afghan official says 6,642 reach Khost from N Waziristan, ready to welcome more
Displaced people from other tribal agencies, including South Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber, have been living in awful conditions in and off camps for seven years.
Over 160,000 displaced families from Fata have been registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Taliban shura headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur has already asked the local residents to move to areas close to Afghan border instead of proceeding to relief camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Take a look: Centre indifferent to N Waziristan displacements
When contacted, an official of the Afghan government confirmed the arrival of 6,642 people, including 1,492 children from North Waziristan Agency in Khost province, where, he said, basic facilities have been provided to them.
He said the families had crossed over to Khost since the fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban began.
“The provincial government has provided land for the refugees in Gurbaz, Nadirshah Kot, Mandozai and Esmail Khail districts of Khost, while a site has also been reserved for them in the provincial capital,” said Mubariz Zadran, spokesman for the Khost governor.
Talking to Dawn over the telephone from Khost, he said on the directives of Afghan health ministry, polio vaccination programme had been started for Pakistani tribesmen.
The Taliban have placed a ban on polio vaccination in North and South Waziristan agencies since 2012.
Officials of the federal state and frontier region ministry dismissed reports about the movement of people of North Waziristan to Afghanistan for taking shelter.
An official, however, said there was no fencing on the border, so the North Waziristan residents, who had properties in Afghanistan, could go back and forth.
“This is a normal movement. Nomad families, especially those Fleeing tribesmen consider Afghanistan safer from Saidgi, Gurbaz and Sherkhel tribes, regularly go to Afghanistan and come back,” he said, adding that the cross-border movement of the tribal people could not be restricted under the Right of Easement.
“Many families have properties across the border, so they regularly go to Afghanistan without restriction,” he said, adding that the Afghan government might exploit the issue.
The Right of Easement is a unique provision in the Durand Line Agreement between the British India and the then Afghan rulers under which the divided tribes on both sides of the border are allowed to carry out cross-border movement without restriction or formality.
The security forces have blocked the Miramshah-Ghulam Khan Road to stop the people from going to Afghanistan.
However, families are reportedly using the unfrequented routes to cross the border.
There is no management of the Pak-Afghan border and apart from the Right of Easement, the people can cross over easily. Maulana Sufi Mohammad of Tehreek Nifaz-i-Shariat Mohammadi had led thousands of people from Malakand division and the adjoining tribal areas to Afghanistan to join the Taliban’s fight against local warlords before the US attack in 2001. As a result, hundreds of people were either killed, imprisoned or went missing in Afghanistan.
However, Mubariz Zadran dispelled the impression that only nomad families, who had houses in Khost, had taken shelter in Afghanistan.
“This is not true. Over 361 families, who came from Mirali, Miramshah and other parts of North Waziristan, have no properties in Khost, have arrived here. We’ve properly registered them all,” he said.
The spokesman for the Khost governor said the Afghan government had been fulfilling basic needs of refugees and was ready to facilitate more dislocated people from North Waziristan.
“The Afghan government is offering refuge to the people of Waziristan only on humanitarian grounds and they can go back to their homes anytime,” he said.
The officials said the Afghan government had also requested the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations in Kabul to provide relief assistance to the new refugees.
“The UN agencies have accepted the request in principle,” said Mubariz Zadran.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2014