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Return of IDPs raises hope for Fata peace

August 28, 2011

PESHAWAR, Aug 28: Nearly half of the internally displaced families living in and off camps have returned to their homes, raising hope for improvement in terms of security in the volatile Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Security experts observed that 'War Theater' was gradually shifting to neighbouring Afghanistan that would change situation in tribal areas.

Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) said that out of total 288,329 internally displaced families over 100,000 returned to their homes in different tribal agencies. The authority has declared 2011 as year of repatriation of IDPs.

Following return of IDPs the authority is going to wind up Jalozai camp in Nowshera district and Nahaqi Camp in Mohmand Agency after Eid. The IDPs from Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber agencies were settled in sprawling Jalozai camp.

“The government will decommission Jalozai camp after Eid,” said Adil Raza, the communication officer FDMA. He added that about 1,500 families living in the camp would be shifted to their homes.

Similarly, he said, Nahaqi camp where 1,100 displaced families were living was also being closed.

Latest updates show that 70,258 families had been displaced from Bajaur Agency and 51,842 families have gone back to their homes. Recently operation commander Maj Kamran was quoted in media as saying that more than 3,200 militants had surrendered and denounced militancy in Bajaur.

In Mohmand Agency, 12,648 displaced families out of total 32,955 have returned. In Orakzai Agency 58,519 families were displaced when insurgency flared up in the area and presently 33,940 families have moved back to their homes. Majority of IDPs belonged to lower tehsil of Orakzai Agency.

Situation in South Waziristan is still very complex where despite complete evacuation of civilians and heavy military build up, Mehsud area is still a hard nut and return of IDPs is very slow.

According to official statistics only 5,555 of total 69,279 displaced families have gone back to their areas since return programme was started last year.

Return programme has been withheld because of security reasons in the area.

Similarly, in Frontier Region of Tank adjacent to South Waziristan 2,097 displaced families, belonging to Bhittani tribe, are still residing off camps.

Future of 4,679 displaced families from Khyber Agency hangs in the balance owing to the endless clashes between rival militant outfits and military operation in the area. Considerable number of IDPs from Khyber Agency also lives in Jalozai.

The IDPs return has also begun from New Durrani Camp in Kurram Agency where military declared victory against insurgents in central Kurram on August 18.

The FDMA said that 217 families of 6,048 registered displaced families had been shifted to their homes since Tuesday last.

In addition, total 34,785 families had been displaced from Kurram Agency because militancy and sectarian clashes erupted in the area in November 2007. Officials said that some 3,000 families had already returned from Peshawar, Kohat and Hangu to Kurram and they were re-registered in New Durrani Camp.

Background discussions with senior officials, elders and information originating from Kurram suggest that families uprooted in the aftermath of violence in the valley would also go back to their respective areas.

In this regard political administration in Kurram has recently intimated FDMA to complete homework for return of IDPs to Parachinar and other parts of the area.

The elders representing various tribes and members of the jirga have held series of meetings in Parachinar to finalise modalities for return of IDPs and opening of the main road. Sources said that decisive round of talks between the rival tribes would start after Eid.

A source privy to these developments said that people of upper and lower Kurram had demanded strong guarantee from stakeholders for security of main road before return of IDPs to Parachinar and other areas.

Officials insisted that return of IDPs to their homes in large number indicated improvement in law and order situation in Fata where government writ had almost been vanished due to soaring insurgency in past few years.

Security analysts link partial improvement in situation in tribal area with rapid developments across the border and beginning of the drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan.

Former Fata secretary (security) Brig (retired) Mahmood Shah said that 'centre of gravity' was shifting to Afghanistan that helped in bringing improvement in the tribal borderlands.

“On the one hand Al Qaeda has lost its leadership while Afghan Taliban are fighting their own war. So it will automatically weaken insurgency in the tribal area,” he remarked.

Information gathered through independent sources revealed that militants still had presence in Nawagai and Chamarkand areas of Bajaur and Khwazai area in adjacent Mohmand Agency.

Similarly, lower tehsil of Orakzai Agency had been de-notified as conflict zone and after completion of military operation in central Kurram security forces would mount pressure on militants operating in central tehsil of Orakzai. Officials said that security forces would have advantage if they cleared Mamozai area in central tehsil of Orakzai. Bajaur and Mohmand have already been de-notified as conflict zones.

But official circles are sceptical about discussing North Waziristan Agency, which has become major concern for the US and its Nato allies. “North Waziristan is no-go area and we don't know what policy government has about this region,” said a senior official.