Mehsud IDPs hope to find a way back home

In the wake of TTP threats, repatriating tribesmen has proved to be a difficult task.

Zulfiqar Ali July 28, 2012


Given the option to continue living in camps in D I Khan and Tank, or returning to their homes in South Waziristan Agency, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) have chosen the latter, despite threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). At the moment their hopes of returning to a peaceful existence seem doomed.

The TTP have distributed pamphlets in South Waziristan, issuing death threats to the Mehsud IDPs, stating that the agency is a war zone where its militants are fighting against security forces.

Security forces launched ‘Operation Rah-e-Nijat’ in 2009 in South Waziristan, dividing the Mehsud between those who joined the TTP and those who turned to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for refuge as IDPs.

The result has been a bitter conflict, even within their individual families.

The origins of the TTP can be traced to the Mehsud tribe, while many of the party’s leadership and foot-soldiers hail from South Waziristan.

At their camps, Mehsud IDPs in D I Khan and Tank move from one ration centre to another in a desperate attempt to meet their basic household needs.

Shahbaz Khan, 72, from South Waziristan told The Express Tribune that his son joined the TTP in 2009 after the military operation and he has not heard from him since.

“The war in our region has turned our lives into hell. I lost a son when he joined the militants. I am dependent on rations given to IDPs in relief camps to feed my family of 13,” he explained, holding his walking stick in one hand and a water cooler in the other.

In the aftermath of  TTP threats, repatriating IDPs has proved to be a difficult task for the government. Despite this, the Pakistan army and political administration of South Waziristan began returning the Mehsud IDPs to their respective areas on July 16.

“Each of these families were provided with transportation, a six-month ration and Rs25,000, among other necessities,”assistant political agent of the Ladha sub-division of South Waziristan, Nawab Khan Safi, said.

The Mehsud IDPs face a difficult reality. On the one hand, they faced hard times in their respective camps, while on the other they are unsure about their homes, which could have been destroyed during the military operation in their areas.

Despite this looming uncertainty, hundreds of IDPs gathered in the registration centre to return home.

On July 18, Phase 5 of the IDPs repatriation was completed under the supervision of security forces and civil administration authorities. Some 1,118 families, including 4,874 individuals have begun returning to their homes in the agency.  It seems that both the economic and political structures of the Mehsud tribe have been deeply uprooted by war in the region.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.

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