PESHAWAR: The internally displaced persons, living in the military-run Bakakhel Camp since their arrival from Afghanistan back to their country, have been feeling suffocated and desperately want to return to their homes in North Waziristan Agency to restart normal life.
The residents of North Waziristan, who had migrated to Afghanistan when military offensive was launched against militants in June 2014, were brought to Bakakhel Camp in Frontier Region Bannu last month. They have been waiting since then to return to their homes.
“If they (military forces) now let us go back to our town, it would be great,” said a local of North Waziristan who was repatriated along with his family to the camp from Afghanistan besides scores of other families.
He requested anonymity for security reasons but said that he felt like living in a prison as they could neither move on their own will nor could see their relatives.
“People have received flour, pulses and tin of cooking oil, but the army does not give them permission to go outside the camp. We feel suffocated due to restrictions on movement,” the tribesman said.
Official says displaced people restricted to camp owing to security reasons
He said that the camp looked like a detention centre. “Even close relatives are not allowed to meet us,” he added.
However, officials overseeing activities at Bakakhel Camp sighted their own reasons for not allowing the IDPs to go outside the camp. “Obviously they (IDPs) have been restricted to the camp, because of security concerns,” said an official. He added that majority of the families, who were repatriated from Afghanistan had been taken back to their homes.
Return of North Waziristan refugees was started last month and total 861 families had entered Pakistan in the first phase. They were temporarily settled in Bakakhel Camp, which has the capacity to accommodate around 3,000 families.
The official said that out of total 861 families given shelter in the camp, so far 774 families were repatriated to their homes in North Waziristan Agency. He said that the remaining 87 families at the camp would be repatriated to their areas after security clearance.
“Once the army issues security clearance, the remaining families will be returned to their homes,” said the official.
Sources said that second phase of repatriation of people of North Waziristan Agency would resume from Afghanistan on Thursday. Around 100 families will arrive via Ghulam Khan checkpost. They said that arrangements had been made to bring around 2,000 families from Afghanistan to Bakakhel Camp in the second phase.
Officials said that intending returnees would be brought to the registration point near the border and after documentation they would be transported in convoy to Bakakhel Camp. Before leaving the camp every family is issued Watan Card, which is mandatory for entry and exit from North Waziristan.
Thousands of families had migrated to Afghanistan after security forces launched operation Zarb-i-Azb against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan in June 2014. Afghan government, UN and its humanitarian partners had set camp for them in Khost province.
There are conflicting reports about the number of tribal people, who took refuge in Afghanistan. An official said that roughly 8,000 families had migrated to Afghanistan. Unofficial sources said that the number of families could be 20,000 to 24,000.
Repatriation of other IDPs to tribal area is in progress and according to Fata Disaster Management Authority around 291,301 families have been returned to their homes in different tribal agencies so far while 44,741 families, majority of them from North and South Waziristan agencies, are waiting for their return.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2017