I do not know who can be held responsible for this sorry state of affairs, but the situation is going from bad to worst in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border. The government of Pakistan has expanded the areas of its operation against terrorists. So far thousands of people have been killed and some three million people have been forced to leave their homes. At least 20000 houses have been destroyed. Women and children in tribal areas are crying for help, but no one is hearing their voice. The peace activits must hear the voice of innocent people who are falling prey to the mad war on terrorism. Situation is worst. I am just sharing a story published in a newspaper about the plight of innocent people.Security forces on Wednesday claimed to have killed over 200 militants during the ongoing military operation in Maidan area of Dir Lower since the launch of the offensive.
Operational Commander Brigadier Amal Zada, in charge of the ongoing military operation in Dir Lower, told reporters here at the Dir Scouts Headquarter that over 200 Taliban militants had been killed so far, while 14 security forcesí personnel were martyred and 30 others injured.
He said a large number of militants had left the area in the guise of internally displaced persons (IDPs). He, however, said they had cordoned off the militant infested areas and established checkpoints in Hayaserai and Lal Qila areas of Maidan.
The operational commander hoped that peace would soon prevail in the area after the region was cleared of the Taliban militants. Brigadier Amal Zada asked the people to cooperate with the Army to uproot the Taliban militants from the area. He said that crimes and militancy could only be uprooted with the help of public support and their confidence in the armed forces.
The operational commander said that though common people suffered numerous hardships during the military offensive against the militants but there was no other option left with security forces except to launch a full-scale military action against the Taliban militants, who were posing a serious threat to the integrity of the country.
In an unusual situation, thousands of people from the conflict areas such as Swat and Dir Lower are still getting displaced while hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have started returning to Bajaur Agency and Buner district.
The uncontrolled movement of so many people in NWFP has become a headache for the government. The intensified military operation against the Taliban militants in Malakand Division is uprooting an alarmingly high number of people. However, the authorities are heaving a sigh of relief that some of the IDPs, particularly those from Bajaur, have finally started going back to their villages. More are being encouraged to make the decision to return home.
A smaller number of IDPs are also returning to Buner and most took the decision because they want to harvest their wheat crop. More IDPs would have gone back to their villages had the government restored electricity supply to Buner. The disruption of drinking water supply due to non-availability of electricity, closure of gas stations and banks, and long curfew hours are other reasons for the reluctance of IDPs to go back to Buner.
The occasional incidents of violence are also prompting many IDPs to delay their return to Buner. One such unfortunate incident took place near Pir Baba on Tuesday in which a gunship helicopter attacked families of IDPs returning to Buner from Mardan’s Garhi Kapoora area. A teenaged girl was killed and her mother, two sisters and three brothers were wounded in the attack. More than 20 other civilians were also injured in the shelling by the helicopter.
The situation in Bajaur after months of violence has considerably improved. However, there is still uncertainty due to fears that things could go wrong again. The IDPs from the Charmang area in Bajaur aren’t going back but those from the other main trouble-spot, Mamond, are gradually making up their mind to return. The onset of summer and the miserable life in the hot tents at Kacha Garhi and Jalozai camps is also prompting the displaced people from Bajaur to return home.
A senior government official told The News that for the last three days as many as 36 trucks on a daily basis transported the IDPs back to Bajaur. He said more IDPs wanted to go back but the political administration in Bajaur had requested to keep the numbers of returning families to a manageable limit. He said Rs5 million were provided by the government to arrange vehicles to transport the IDPs to their villages in Bajaur.
It is pertinent to mention that the Bajaur IDPs were unhappy that they got a raw deal compared to the displaced people from Malakand Division. They had a point as the public response to their plight was poor and there weren’t many donors willing to help them. But in case of the IDPs from Swat and the rest of Malakand Division, there has been outpouring of sympathy and offers of support by both individuals and organisations. The government too has been mobilising help for these IDPs with greater vigour.
The issue of the IDPs has been further compounded by the reports from South Waziristan, where the Mahsud tribespeople were reportedly shifting to safer places fearing military operation against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) head Baitullah Mahsud. An unguarded statement by President Asif Ali Zardari in which he expressed his government’s resolve to carry out military action in Waziristan alarmed the Mahsud tribe and prompted them to move out of the area. There were reports that 1500 Mahsud families have left the area and more were preparing to do so. The Pakistan Army is unlikely to carry out military operation in Waziristan as long as it is busy in Malakand Division and until Baitullah Mahsud and other Taliban violate their peace accord with the government. But President Zardari unwittingly created scare among the Mahsud tribespeople by giving his statement about a likely military action in South Waziristan.