Mammoth task: ‘Resettling IDPs will cost $1.5 billion’

Governor Sardar Mehtab says Zarb-e-Azb to conclude in weeks, not months.

Shamim Shahid July 25, 2014


Although he expressed satisfaction over the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb against militants in North Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Abbasi said the province required $1.5 billion for the agency’s reconstruction and the repatriation and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDP).

“It will be a huge task, which will be very difficult without the help of the international community,” he remarked, while talking to a group of select journalists at Governor House on Thursday.

The government realises the sacrifices rendered by the IDPs who have abandoned their homes for the armed forces to clear the area of militants and restore the state’s writ, he said. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made it clear that the welfare and needs of the IDPs is top priority.”

Abbasi said the government has to facilitate and support not only the huge IDP population from North Waziristan but thousands of tribesmen from other tribal agencies, including South Waziristan, Orakzai, Kurram, Bajaur, Khyber and Mohmand. “We are dealing with two million IDPs in the country.”

“It is premature to say something at this stage about the conclusion of Zarb-e-Azb,” he said in response to a question. “But the government is determined to take it to its logical conclusion [...] and it will be a matter of weeks, not months.” He added North Waziristan was a “hub of economic and financial activities of militants” which has been destabilised.

Abbasi dispelled allegations of there being collateral damage during the operation, reiterating that nearly all tribesmen have been evacuated. However, he added, “Some tribesmen are responsible for damages in certain areas as they hosted and sheltered militants.”

After the storm

When asked about the government’s strategies to ensure peace after the operation is complete, Abbasi replied, “The government is encouraging tribal elders and the people to realise their territorial responsibilities and deny entrance or shelter to militants in future.”

To an identical question, he said, “Ultimately the civilian administration has to run the system. Therefore, the government is utilising all resources available for strengthening the administration.”

All authorities surrendered to the civilian administration in the three tribal agencies of Mohmand, Bajaur and Kurram whereas similar efforts are under way in the rest of the tribal belt, he informed the press.

Without tribal society, the complete eradication of militancy is out of the question and therefore, the government is ensuring due support and cooperation to the people, he added.

Regarding the fate of the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (Fata), which is essential for durable peace in the region, the governor said, “There is no hurry. We intend to decide this matter after thorough consultations and discussions with tribesmen.” The Fata Reforms Cell has already been reactivated which is engaging with the people.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2014.


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