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Severe cold hampering IDPs’ return to tribal areas

The government is set to miss the deadline to take the internally displaced persons (IDPs) back to their homes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by the end of December due to severe cold weather in some parts of the conflict-affected region.

In addition, the fate of thousands of families who took refuge in Afghanistan still hangs in the balance and the government has yet to announce mechanism for their repatriation. Over 100,000 people had taken refuge in Afghanistan when the Pakistan Army launched the operation ‘Zarb-i-Azb’ in North Waziristan Agency in June 2014.

The offensive against local and foreign militants had forced over one million civilians to flee their homes and take shelter in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other areas of the country.

Fata Disaster Management Authority director general Mohammad Khalid said that some of the IDPs might not go back to their homes till March 2017 because of the tough weather conditions in their native lands.

“Return of IDPs is likely to be delayed to some areas like Shawal and Datakhel in the South and North Waziristan agencies, respectively, till March due to harsh weather conditions,” he told Dawn.

FDMA DG confirms some displaced persons may not return till March

He said that 85 per cent of the IDPs had been repatriated and the return to various tribal agencies was still in progress. He said that repatriation of displaced population to Orakzai and Kurram would be completed next month.

The government had earlier announced to complete repatriation of IDPs to Fata by the end of December 2016. FDMA said that caseload of the IDPs from five tribal agencies of Fata was 336,042 families of which 274,044 had been sent back to their homes so far.

Statistics show that 30,626 displaced families are waiting for return to North Waziristan, 22,245 families to South Waziristan, 2,517 families to Khyber Agency, 2,894 families to Orakzai Agency and 3,716 families to Kurram Agency.

The returnees are provided tents, food ration for six months and kit of non-food items in addition to Rs25,000 cash grant and Rs10,000 transportation cost. The government has also announced to pay Rs400,000 cash for fully damaged and Rs160,000 for partially damaged house.

The compensation process has been very slow due to delay in releases from the centre and the damage assessment survey. Military campaign and weather severity had rendered the houses unfit for living.

Concerned officials said that the tribal people who had taken refuge in Afghanistan were a source of concern for the government. After launch of the military operation in North Waziristan the people living in areas adjacent to the Afghan border had fled to Afghanistan.

Unofficial sources said that around 200,000 tribal people had been provided refuge in Afghanistan. They said that the government had yet to work out a plan for the return of refugees from Afghanistan.

The local administration had sent registration forms to the tribal people in Afghanistan a few months ago and asked them to fill these forms before their return to North Waziristan. One source said that the government was likely to make decision about refugees in Afghanistan next week.

Mr Khalid said that roughly 5,000 to 10,000 families had migrated to Afghanistan. He said that people who migrated to Afghanistan would be treated like other IDPs.

Source: Dawn

Byline: Bureau Report

December 26, 2016

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