By Said Nazir
Though, militancy has almost been routed out from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas following conclusive military operations, yet large part of the tribal belt is still considered hazardous for living.
As a result of subsequent military offensives in different tribal agencies, large number of the temporarily displaced persons have returned to their hometowns, but free movement is still a big challenge for them due to thousands of scattered landmines.
According to data available with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), more than two thousands cases of landmine blasts have been reported in Fata over the past few years. The data showed that majority of the victims in such cases are women and children who are either killed or got deprived of their limbs.
Landmines are common in the tribal areas even before the rise of the militants as local prepared mines were being used by the tribesmen for settling disputes and family feuds. However, the incidents of landmine blasts have increased particularly after the return of the tribesmen.
Obaidullah, who heads the community based risk education program of the PRCS, says that despite rigorous efforts by the government and the security forces, it seems impossible to clear the tribal belt of landmines completely.
“According to our assessment, an average landmine blast takes place every week in different tribal agencies,” he informs.
Khyal Hussain, a tribesman from Ladha tehsil of the South Waziristan agency, says that as many as 68 incidents of landmine blasts have taken place in his hometown affecting dozens of local people over the last 8 years.
“We demand from the government to clear the area so that we can freely move,” he stresses.
A few days ago, a landmine blast took place inside a house in Dande Darpa Khel area of North Waziristan agency killing one tribesman and injuring five others. According to local people, the ill-fated tribesman Irfanullah had recently returned to his village and was busy in cleansing his home when the bomb went off.
Following the blast, the return process of the Dande Darpa Khel tribesmen has once again been suspended for an indefinite period.
Tribesmen in Orakzai Agency are also facing risks of landmine blasts. It is because of the landmines risks, certain tribesmen of the agency are unwilling to return to their homes. However Political Agent Khalid Iqbal Wazir told TNN that security forces were clearing the agency from the landmines on priority basis in order to make the district safe for the return of TDPs.
The tribal elders of the South Waziristan agency held a jirga at the political compound in Tank the other day. The tribal elders strongly criticized the political administration for not clearing the area. They regretted that large number of children and women had died and got wounded due to landmine blasts in the agency but the government did not take any measures in this regard.
The tribesmen noted that the people of South Waziristan have rendered great sacrifices in the war against terrorism and urged the government to launch a drive on war footings to remove scattered landmines.
The jirga threatened that if the government did not remove the landmines, they would hold a protest demonstrations and sit-ins outside the parliament and embassies of foreign countries in Islamabad.
The matter of landmines was also discussed in the meeting of parliamentary committee on Safron. The committee urged the government to establish a fund for the victims of landmine blasts. The committee expressed discontentment that at least 50 people have died and hundreds of others injured in landmine blasts only in South Waziristan agency. It noted that according to a rough estimate, about ten thousands landmines are laying in the Mehsud inhabited area, which need to be removed before they claim further human lives.