PESHAWAR/BANNU: Thousands of displaced men, women and children were stranded on Friday at checkpoints, waiting for clearance from the authorities amid a mass exodus from North Waziristan.
The Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) said 227,049 people, including 100,370 children, had been registered at the Saidgi checkpoint on the Bannu-Miramshah road. An official said thousands of families were on way to Bannu.
Witnesses said the families left on foot for Bannu during curfew relaxation. Long queues of people were seen waiting at the checkpoints for clearance by the authorities.
“It’s like a sea of people heading towards Bannu, some of them are going on foot and some on trucks with their belongings,” a tribal youth, Nasr Minallah, said.
Hideouts destroyed near Miramshah
He said he had left Miramshah on Thursday and reached Bakakhel before dawn on Friday. Long queues of vehicles transporting the displaced families were at the checkpoints, he said.
“In many areas, elderly men and women preferred to stay back and send their children to seek shelter,” Mr Minallah said.
Another tribesman, Abdul Karim, said the drivers and owners of vehicles were fleecing the families because of shortage of transport. “I had to pay Rs 65,000 to a trucker to shift my family from Miramshah to Bannu,” he said.
A three-day curfew relaxation in North Waziristan ended on Friday and it is unclear if the relaxation would continue on Saturday.
People in Bannu said there was an imminent threat of food shortage because of the huge influx of tribal families into the district. There is also shortage of accommodation and many families have taken shelter in school buildings, while a considerable number of people are out in the open.
Residents said that many of the newly displaced families were proceeding towards Punjab to seek shelter with relatives and friends.
Minister for States and Frontier Regions Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch told reporters in Peshawar that the government was aware of the plight of the displaced people and their needs would be fulfilled. He said the Bannu commissioner had been appointed the focal person to oversee arrangements.
The civil secretariat of Federally Administered Tribal Areas said in a statement that food stamps and ration cards of Rs7,000 per month per family were likely to be issued to the IDPs verified by the National Database and Registration Authority.
It said an agreement had been reached to provide mobile phone SIMs to the displaced people.
MILITARY ACTION: According to a press release issued by the military, terrorist hideouts in Qutab Khel on the outskirts of Miramshah were destroyed on Friday.
Cobra gunships, artillery and snipers took coordinated action and 12 terrorists, including foreigners, were killed. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was also destroyed.
The ISPR said terrorists inside cordoned areas were making desperate attempts to flee. “Six attempts were foiled last night.”
Three locals who did not have any proof of identity were apprehended while trying to flee from the cordon.
The press release said that 24 suspects who were trying to flee in the garb of IDPs had been apprehended at various posts in Mirali and Miramshah.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2014