MIRAMSHAH: The third phase of return of residents of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) from Afghanistan started on Thursday and 106 families arrived via Angor Adda border crossing point in South Waziristan Agency. Over 5,000 families are still living the life of refugees in the neighbouring country.

Officials said that the families were registered at a centre in Angor Adda from where they were brought to Bakakhel camp for internally displaced persons in Frontier Region, Bannu. They said that the returnees would be sent back to their homes after screening at the camp.

“These families will stay for a week and will be allowed to go back to their native areas in North Waziristan Agency,” said an official of Fata Disaster Management Authority in Peshawar.

He said that basic facilities such as food and shelter were being provided to the returnees at the camp.

The newly-returned families came from Afghanistan’s Khost province. Officials said that over 10,000 families had migrated to Afghanistan from North Waziristan when Pakistan Army launched operation Zarb-i-Azb against militants in June 2014.

They said that 4,364 families, including 106 families of the third phase, had returned from Afghanistan and the remaining 5,000 or more would be brought back soon. The military operation had forced over one million civilians to vacate their homes and fled to settled areas of the country.

“The return process of the tribal people from Afghanistan is likely to be completed in April next year,” an official told Dawn in Peshawar.

The federal government had earlier announced that displaced families would be returned to their homes in December 2016, but the deadline could not be met as more families were displaced from Rajgal area of Khyber Agency and Shaktoi area of South Waziristan.

The officials confirmed that 1,166 families of Kokikhel tribe had been evacuated from Rajgal valley after security forces launched operation Khyber-IV in July last. Similarly, over 300 families were asked to move to Bakakhel camp in FR Bannu early this month, they said.

They said that return of IDPs to other tribal agencies except North Waziristan and Khyber Agency had been completed. They said that a total of 14,500 displaced families from these two tribal agencies had been waiting for their return.

“Return of the remaining IDPs depends on the security situation in their native areas and clearance from the security forces,” said an official, adding that some areas like Rajgal in Khyber and Lowra Mandai in North Waziristan had not been de-notified as conflict zones.

He said that the government might withdraw status of the remaining displaced families by next financial year and stop all assistance if they did not return to their homes.

He said that a large number of families did not return to their homes in Fata voluntarily and the government would withdraw their status.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017

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