The situation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) is reportedly returning to normalcy as the internally displaced persons are returning to their homes and peace has prevailed, but life remains difficult for them due to the lack of basic facilities.
According to the NWA General Officer Commanding Maj Gen Hassan Azhar Hayat, who hosted journalists for a briefing on the area's overall situation on Thursday, all no-go areas have been cleared by the Army and 80 per cent of the people displaced from the areas have now been resettled.
He said that around 80 per cent of the displaced people from the area had returned and were "contributing to the development of the agency".
Major Gen Hayat told reporters that the era of operations has come to an end and an era of development has started in the agency with the launching of new projects.
Sharing the details of these projects, he informed reporters that four army public schools have been established in NWA. A model town is also in final stages in main Miranshah city.
However, a resident of Miranshah was of the view that while the Army's contributions were commendable, the civilian government did not seem serious about addressing the issues and problems of the tribal people.
“No doubt that we are in a new and peaceful Waziristan -- but it is one without basic facilities,” Malik Noor Khan, a local tribal elder, told DawnNews.
Tribal elder Noor Khan said: “We have no basic facilities like electricity, clean drinking water, schools and hospitals etc. We need schools with teachers and hospitals with doctors."
“If you build a school or hospital or a hydropower project in Miranshah, it does not mean you have changed the whole of Waziristan,” one other local asserted, requesting not to be named.
He admitted that development work was underway, but said it was being carried out only in areas near government installations.
Another resident of NWA, Malik Irfan, 25, said: “The administration has made the agency a paradise just in pictures for their presentations and slides for government high-ups.”
Almost 80 per cent of the 944 government schools are non-functioning due to lack of staff and other facilities, he explained, adding that the same situation prevails in the health sector.
“It seems that we are living in the stone ages, as there is no light, mobile or telephone service,” Malik Irfan remarked. It is because of this lack of basic facilities in North Waziristan that the internally displaced persons prefer to stay in Peshawar and other cities, he claimed.
“Our shops, market, houses and livestock were destroyed and most of them are still waiting completion,” he said, complaining that the government was not paying heed to address their problems.
“The political agent is the ‘king’ of the agency and meeting him to convey our issues or problems is very difficult job, as people are not allowed to see him,” a local, Rehamullah Khan, complained.
‘The success of operation Zarb-i-Azb’
Recounting the success of operation Zarb-i-Azb, the GOC recalled that 207 security personnel had been martyred and more than two thousand injured, whereas forces had reportedly killed 2,872 terrorists.
He continued that more than 1,177 terrorists had been arrested and more than 1,500 others surrendered to security forces.
"During the operation, 310 tonnes of explosives and ammunition was recovered," he said, adding that there had been factories manufacturing ammunition and IEDs operating openly in the agency.
"Now the area is completely cleared and no one is allowed to keep gun or pistols," he claimed.
Maj Gen Hayat said, “We are changing the mentality of the people and have established a deradicalisation centre in Mir Ali.”
Hundreds of previously 'brainwashed' people have been deradicalised so far in the centre, he added.
‘Recent security situation’
The GOC also talked about cross-border attacks, the current security situation, and recent threats.
“Cross-border attacks and hideouts of militants in Afghanistan pose a threat to peace, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said.
He said that cross-border movement is completely banned and security has been enhanced along the Pak-Afghan border, adding that 1,113 security posts have been established at a visible distance.
Hayat revealed that Afghan mobile networks are working inside the Pakistani area and the issue has been taken up with the Afghan officials.