KHAR, Oct 22: The tribal people displaced from Salarzai tehsil of Bajaur Agency owing to attacks from across the Afghan border have started returning to their native villages as administration has declared the area free of militants.
However, they complain that they are facing plethora of problems as UNHCR has not awarded them the status of internally displaced persons.
According to official data, 4,225 tribal people of Salarzai vacated their houses and migrated to safer places when hundreds of militants attacked their villages from Kunar province of Afghanistan.
The security forces and local tribal lashkar cleared the region of militants on Sept 17 and claimed to have killed 100 attackers including some of their key commanders. The militants also claimed inflicting heavy losses on security forces and tribal lashkar.
About 24 villages including Batwar, Lakyan, Tendudag, Kambailay and Batwar Khas were affected by the fighting. The displaced people started returning to their villages after security forces and tribal administration declared the area safe and secure.
“About 60 per cent people had returned to their homes while the rest will soon return,” said a local tribal elder. He said that they were happy on returning to their homes.
“People feel comfort on returning to their homes but they are faced with multiple problems as their houses have been damaged,” Fazl Akbar, an elder of Batwar, told Dawn.
Noor Khan, another resident of the area, said that they were facing shelter problem as their houses were damaged and unable to live in. The government should immediately provide shelter and basic facilities to them, he said. He added that government and NGOs were not providing essential items to them.
“We are just at the mercy of Allah Almighty. We would rebuild our houses on self-help basis,” said 58-year-old Yaquab Khan. He said that people of the border areas were also citizens of the country but they were disappointed as government didn’t assist them.
The officials of local administration said that more than 60 per cent people of Salarzai tehsil returned to their homes. “A total 4,225 families were displaced from several areas of the region. Now at least 60 per cent of them have returned to their homes,” Additional Political Agent Imran Hamid Sheikh told Dawn.
He said that government and the local administration supported the displaced people and fulfilled all their basic requirements.
“The administration has provided food packages and transport facilities to them. Others items would soon be provided to them,” Mr Sheikh said. He said that the area was cleared of militants and most of the villages were suitable for living. He said that the administration was taking measures for repatriation of the remaining displaced persons.
“The administration is a ware of the problems of the people. We are trying to complete return all remaining displaced persons just after Eid,” the APA said.
An official of Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) at Khar said that they sent recommendations to UNHCR for awarding status of internally displaced persons to the people of Salarzai but the UN agency refused to accept their recommendations.
“The people, who migrated from their homes in the border areas of Salarzai, don’t qualify the criteria set for becoming IDPs,” he said.
The official said that after the refusal of UNHCR, the displaced people of Salarzai would not any facility meant for IDPs.