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Repatriation of the displaced

Appeals have been made by displaced Pashtun tribesmen – their numbers running into the thousands – to help them return to their homes before Ramazan begins later this month. For a variety of reasons this may seem like a tall order. Over one million people were displaced by military operations against militant groups in the North and South Waziristan agencies since 2014. Many of them had been living in temporary shelters with inadequate facilities for the last few years. Through sustained counterterrorism military operations, the security forces have secured most of the border region by either eliminating the militants or driving them out. They have also been allowing people to return home.

Families still displaced say their breadwinners are out of work and their children are out of school. They also complain that they have meagre food rations and little or no access to clean water and electricity. The harsh summer temperatures have complicated matters for them. In several places temperatures have already shot up well above 38 degrees C.  In view of this the tribal elders have asked the government to repatriate them before the start of Ramazan. The shrillest calls for repatriation have come from the village of Dande Darpakhel. But as the government has time and again explained the process of resettling internally displaced persons is fraught with danger. It involves working around a number of security and logistical challenges that require painstaking effort on the part of the authorities. The FATA Disaster Management Authority has already issued a number of tokens for the purpose but has not quite worked out the time frame owing to security-related challenges.

Much bigger and graver problems lie ahead. This has much to do with what the IDPs are expected to accomplish upon their resettlement. Their current level of government assistance – which amounts to 12,000 rupees plus food rations – won’t take them very far from basic subsistence. The state of their homes and markets is also a cause for concern. Many IDPs say their houses are either in ruins or badly damaged. And amidst all these concerns is the fear that the area may fall back under the sway of renewed insurgency. The matter requires soft but dexterous handling.

Editorial. Repatriation of the displaced. The Express Tribune, May 15, 2017.

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