Hundreds of Mehsud tribesmen have started evacuating their houses in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan Agency, as Mullah Nazir’s deadline came to an end on Wednesday.
On December 1, Mullah Nazir, a pro-government Taliban commander in South Waziristan, in a jirga with Ahmadzai Wazir tribal elders, ordered all Mehsud tribesmen – both militants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) – to evacuate Ahmedzai Wazir areas, which include Wana, by December 5. The announcement came in response to the November 29 suicide attack which targeted Nazir.
Following the Pakistan Army’s Operation Rah-e-Nijat in the Mehsud areas of Sarwakai and Ladha, the government settled displaced Mehsud families in the Ahmadzai Wazir-dominated Shakai, Kari Kot, Speen Wam and Azam Warsak areas.
“More than 200 families have started to leave Wana… most Mehsud tribesmen in Shakai have left their houses,” a senior political administration official from Wana told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity, adding there was no proper registration process in place for the exodus.
“Administration officials have been directed to facilitate the Mehsud tribesmen leaving Wana by relaxing Rahdari (travel permit) requirements,” the official maintained. He said most Mehsud families were expected to move to Tank and DI Khan, and a significant number could opt for Balochistan’s Zhob district.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Wana resident Abid Khan said a large number of vehicles carrying Mehsud families and their belongings were seen heading towards Tank and DI Khan.
“Most of the vehicles, loaded with women and children, were held up at checkposts and awaited security clearance,” he added.
Shah Zaman, a Mehsud tribesman settled in Tank, told The Express Tribune that neither the government nor other tribesmen living in the district had made prior arrangements for the displaced Mehsud families entering the area.
“We are unsure if the militants belonging to the Mehsud tribe are still present in the area or have moved elsewhere,” the political administration official maintained meanwhile. However, according to a tribal elder from the region, the Mehsud militants have left Wana and moved to unknown locations.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an Ahmadzai Wazir tribal elder admitted it was impossible to evacuate all Mehsud tribesmen for the area.
“Some of them are serving in the Wana political administration, many have had businesses here for more than a decade,” he said, adding “it is unclear how those Mehsud tribesmen will be dealt with.”
The elder said other tribal elders, from Dottani and Suleman Khel tribes, were in touch with Mullah Nazir to convince him to relax his decision for those Mehsud tribesmen who were living in the area peacefully.
“Negotiations for another jirga to decide the fate of such Mehsud tribesmen are underway,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2012.