PESHAWAR, 22 March: The repatriation process of the internally displaced persons of Khyber and South Waziristan tribal agencies has got underway and a large number of displaced families have returned to their native areas during last few days. Repatriation of North Waziristan IDPs is also set to commence at the end of the current month.
In an interview with TNN correspondent Mr Fazal Rehman, the FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) Director Operations Farman Khilji has shared some details about the government steps to facilitate the returning IDPs.
TNN: What preparations have been made by the FDMA for return of the IDPs and how much assistance will be provided to them?
Farman Khilji: We have started repatriation of South Waziristan IDPs from 16 March, which is continuing quite smoothly. The return of IDPs from Bara will be carried out in phases. Repatriation process of Akakhel tribe started on 20 March, after which the displaced people of Shalobar, Kambarkhel, Bar Kambarkhel and Malikdinkhel will also be sent back. We will give Rs10,000 to each displaced family on return and we have also given them mobile SIMs. When the IDPs fill forms for their return, they will get an SMS on their SIMs about receiving monetary aid. We will also provide ATM cards to the IDPs to withdraw Rs25,000 cash assistance. A UNICEF healthcare kit will also be provided to the returning IDPs. Tents will also be provided to those IDPs whose houses have been severely damaged during the military operation. So this is a comprehensive package.
TNN: Will you send back all the IDPs or to selected areas?
Farman Khilji: We are planning to send back all the IDPs according to the instructions of the governor and Government of Pakistan. Currently, there are 310,000 displaced families so we have divided them into several groups in order to ensure provision of aid to every IDP. We are not sending all the IDPs at once as in that case it will be difficult for the government to look after them properly. We have made a similar plan for the return of 70,000 displaced families of Bara. About 20,000 families from Akakhel will be sent back in the first phase after which other tribes of Bara will also be repatriated. We will also begin the process of IDPs return to North Waziristan from 31 March.
TNN: We have noticed that three or four members of a displaced family return to their native areas while the rest stay back. What is the reason behind this?
Farman Khilji: There might be various reasons for this practice. The male members of displaced families first go to their native areas and assess the situation and later on their female family members and children also join them. We also recommend that the large families should first send their male members to check all their belongings as they will not get enough assistance to sustain large families after returning to their native areas. People are free to choose the method of their return, but they must also keep in mind that the foreign donor agencies give assistance after counting families in the area. So I will recommend more people to return to their areas to get maximum aid.
TNN: Some displaced people don’t return to their areas because the security forces don’t allow free movement in those areas. What is your opinion on this issue?
Farman Khilji: The law and order personnel will be in a better position to reply this query. However, military operations were conducted recently in those areas, so such problems exist in such areas initially. Such problems also existed initially in Lower Orakzai, Kurram, Bagh, Maidan and Tirah areas but now people are moving freely there and no such problem exists.
TNN: Do you think that the financial assistance of Rs400,000 for completely damaged and Rs160,000 for partially damaged houses is enough?
Farman Khilji: It is the government policy to allocate similar compensation amount for all the affected people. The residences of very influential people were also destroyed during military actions in Swat and Malakand, but the government can afford assistance to a certain limit. The government announces a uniform package and then ensures its implantation. One can construct two or three rooms of a house with this package. After that the affected people are free to construct their homes according to their liking.
Translation by Aamir Khan