Clouded in uncertainty: IDPs to ‘stay away from home beyond 2016’

Published: February 21, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

Around 336,762 families of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) might have to continue living in temporary camps even beyond the current year, mainly because of law and order issues and financial constraints.

These families were uprooted because of militant presence in the tribal areas and the military’s operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014 to rid the region of militancy.

Conversations with relevant top security officials suggest that it would not be possible to ensure complete rehabilitation of the displaced persons even by the end of this year.

“It would not be possible to complete the process of returning the IDPs this year,” said an official in the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) and cited financial constraints and stalled work on Fata reforms as the major reasons.

Last March the federal government had chalked out a five-phase plan — from March 2015 to December 2016 — to return the displaced families back to their homes, with the exercise expected to cost the exchequer Rs175 billion.

“The military leadership is also in close contact with the federal government on this particular issue,” said an official in the interior ministry.

According to the Safron ministry, work on phases three, four and five is under way. “We shall try to ensure repatriation of all families despite all the constraints,” said an official.

He shared with The Express Tribune the breakup of the remaining three phases. But the plan’s success relies mainly on two factors: availability of the required funds and security clearance in the five tribal agencies.

North Waziristan Agency

The total number of IDP families from North Waziristan Agency is 68,700. According to the Safron ministry, the return of approximately 12,000 to 15,000 has been planned until the end of the next month, while the remaining will be sent home by the year-end.

South Waziristan Agency

The stated number of IDP families in South Waziristan Agency is 57,127. The return of around 30,000 has been planned until March, while the remaining will be sent home until December in the fourth and fifth phases.

Orakzai Agency

There are 19,721 IDP families that belong to Orakzai Agency. The return of around 3,000 from the lower and central parts of the agency has been planned to be completed between March and April, while the government is optimistic that the remaining IDP families from upper Orakzai will be sent home by May or June.

Khyber Agency

The number of displaced families from Khyber Agency, which borders with Peshawar, is 9,834. According to the official scheme, the return of 5,320 families from Zakha Khel, Stori Khel, Kuki Khel and Adam Khel will be started in April-May.

Kurram Agency

The return of around 5,000 displaced families from the upper and lower parts of Kurram Agency is slated to be completed between March and April, while the remaining 12,000 from central Kurram will be sent home by May or June.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2016.

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