KHYBER: Families have fled several areas of Tirah valley here out of fear after ‘spotting’ militants, the local officials insist.

The officials told Dawn on condition of anonymity that those families from Sanda Pal, Jarrhobi, Dwa Khulay, Baghrai, Khapur and Dray Naghari either shifted to the adjacent Orakzai tribal district or went to relatives and friends based in Dars Jumaat, Sherkhel and Mergutkhel areas of Akkakhel.

They added that those people were members of Kamarkhel, Akkakhel, Zakhakhel and Sipah tribes and returned to the valley recently after a decade of displacement.

The officials said a camp was put up for those IDPs in Sokh area on their way to the respective destinations.

Tribesmen insist they’re told to leave homes without transportation arrangements

The tribesmen told Dawn on condition of anonymity that they were told to leave homes in haste with no arrangements in place for the shifting of belongings.

They said the elderly, women and children, too, had covered long distances on foot.

Officials insisted that the displacement of the families won’t last long and that they all would be registered with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority.

They said that most of those families were previously not registered prior to their return to their area.

The officials also said that the suspected people sneaked into the areas de-notified by security officials.

The tribesmen insisted that the armed men were present in some areas before the start of their (residents) return in June.

They said their elders reported the presence of those ‘undesirable’ elements to the local officials but action wasn’t taken against them.

The tribesmen claimed that they were told a few days ago to either hand over armed men to the security forces or leave the area immediately following attacks on security checkposts and convoys with improvised explosive devices.

Two soldiers were injured in those attacks, which also damaged vehicles.

Some families, who reached Bara, said they were asked to leave homes while they were rebuilding damaged houses as part of preparations for the harsh winter.

They said they had to carry out the reconstruction on their own as the relevant departments hadn’t so far conducted the assessment of damaged properties in the area for payments to their owners.

The tribesmen said that the armed men mostly belonged to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and that their presence had caused fears and anger among the residents.

The activists of political parties and civil society and traders in Bara had organised a ‘peace march’ on Sept 4 under the banner of the Khyber Siyasi Ittehad and demanded an immediate crackdown on those suspected militants by the security forces.

KSI Bara chapter head Shah Faisal Afridi told Dawn that law-enforcement agencies had failed to check the sudden return of ‘miscreants’ in parts of Tirah, so the people were terrified.

He said the ‘miscreants’ were involved in targeted killing of at least four policemen and extorted money from the local traders and politicians.

The residents of Bagh Maidan, the largest business centre in Tirah valley, said that the situation in their area was peaceful but they had told security officials that they won’t form any peace committee to act as a frontline defence against militants.

They said that they had suffered a lot during the decades-long displacement, so this time around, they would prefer leaving homes instead of resisting the ‘ruthless’ militants.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2022

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