The repatriation process of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) has entered its final stage.
According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), majority of the displaced families have so far been repatriated but still there are thousands of households who are still waiting for government’s approval to return to their hometowns.
The authority’s statistics show that out of the 71,000 displaced families from the South Waziristan agency, about 33,000 families have been repatriated. During the ongoing phase, another 20,000 to 25,000 families will be sent to their native areas.
Shabeerullah, who belongs to Sarwekai tehsil says he and his fellow tribesmen face problems in obtaining their ration as there is only one distribution point. “For the tribesmen of 45 villages in Sarwekai tehsil, the government has established only one distribution point in the entire tehsil in Mili Khan area. Usually, the tribesmen find it difficult to reach the point due to unavailability of transport and when they come here, they stand in long queues all the day. At the find, some of the villages return to their homes without getting their ration,” Shabeerullah remarks. He also informs that the food items being given to the tribesmen at the distribution point are usually substandard.
Wadood, who has recently returned to his home in Ladha tehsil, says there are no jobs for the tribesmen. “These tribesmen have spent nine years away from their homes. Though, they have returned but almost 95% of them are jobless. The government should make proper arrangements and create job vacancies for the tribesmen and help them restart their normal lives,” he urges.
According to official sources, more than 50 percent of the displaced tribesmen of North Waziristan agency have been sent back to their homes. The FDMA has set up a center at the Baka Khel IDPs camp for the registration of the returning IDPs.
These tribesmen are complaining about inadequate facilities at the registration center. They are also not satisfied with the financial supports being provided to them at the time of repatriation.
Some of the tribesmen say the timings of the convoys in which they are being sent to home is inappropriate. They demand that they should be allowed to reach home in day time to avoid multiple problems.
Whatever the tribesmen have faced or have been facing in the IDPs camps and in their ways, the only thing which did not deter their determination is their love for the soil.
Sajid Dawar admits that he and his fellow tribesmen face numerous problems during their stay in the IDPs camp. “Yes we bravely face cold and hot weathers but today we are happy because we are returning to our homes. We are satisfied that we face all these for the sake of the country,” he remarks.
Jamal Abdul Nasir suggests that the cash grant of Rs25,000 given to the tribesmen after repatriation, should be given to them in advance.”Other facilities such as serving lunch to the tribesmen and providing them ATM cards are good. The only thing the authorities need to reconsider is to provide the cash grant prior to the departure of the tribesmen so that they do not need to come back to Bannu.
The ATM cards are not activated unless a family reaches its destination,” he informs. However, he complains that the food ration being provided to the tribesmen for six months is of poor quality. “We have repeatedly reported the matter but nobody takes any action. The wheat flour provided to us is completely inappropriate for human consumption,” he explains.
Journalist Umar Daraz Wazir from the North Waziristan agency also points out anomalies in the registration process. “It takes a full day to obtain the watan cards and the clearance cards. Usually, the displaced families are departed along with their kids from the registration center in the midnight. And when they reach their hometowns, they land in their demolished houses where they have no facilities of electricity, water and other basic amenities. The government needs to make this process easier and comfortable,” he adds.
An official of the FDMA Imran Wazir stationed in Bannu says that they have been trying to provide maximum facilitation to the tribesmen.
FDMA officials say that the repatriation process in Khyber Agency has almost completed. Out of the total 90,000 displaced families, only 3000 or so families have not been sent to homes.
At present, IDPs belonging to five tribes of Tirah valley are being repatriated. A registration point has been established at Miagano Khwar for the people of Zaudin, Stori Khel, Adam Khel, Aka Khel and Qamar Khel tribes.
Though the returning tribesmen are feeling excited about their return but are apprehensive too. They say the government should complete the rehabilitation of the infrastructure and provide them winter kits.
Taj Muhammad, a member of the Zaka Khel tribe says the government should reopen all the blocked roads and provide them tents for their temporary residence as majority of the houses are demolished during the operation against militants.
“The people of our tribe are living under the blue sky in Sheen Kamar area. The political authorities must rehabilitate all the uneven and bumpy roads before our repatriation,” he says.
Zahir Shah, a resident of Bara tehsil says that majority of the people of his area are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. But due to the years long militancy period and the subsequent exodus of the tribesmen from their homes due to military operation, the fertile lands turn barren. He demands that the government should support the local farmers in rehabilitating the cultivable lands.
He also urges the government to revive the education system lest the younger generation should grow uneducated.
Khyber Agency political agent sys efforts are underway to provide basic amenities to the people of the area. He adds that a fresh survey will be carried out in the areas following which provision of compensation amount to the owners of damaged houses will begin.
He further says that those tribesmen, who were earlier not registered, can get registration form from the office of the political administration.
According to FDMA statistics, out of the total 35800 displaced families of the Orakzai agency, about 27000 families have been repatriated. As many as 8000 families of the Aakhel, Mulla Khel and Ali Khel tribes are being sent to their homes during the ongoing phase. A registration center has been established in Shahoo Khel area to facilitate the returning IDPs.
The government has been providing cash grants and ration to the returning tribesmen as per the procedure adopted for other IDPs.
A tribal person Zahir Khan though praises the political administration for the arrangements it put in place for the repatriation of the IDPs but says their houses back home are laying demolished and the government should take steps to rebuild them.
Another tribesman Khayi Shah says they abandoned their homes nine years ago only for the sake of the country. He stresses that the government and the nation should recognize their sacrifices and facilitate their rehabilitation. Other tribesmen also complain that basic amenities like clean drinking water, education, health and roads network is also shattered.
Assistant political agent of the upper Orakzai agency Iqbal Wazir says the political authorities and the FDMA have been extending full support to the returning IDPs.
He adds that damaged need assessment surveys are being carried out in different areas of the agency. He informs that after the completion of the surveys, the owners of the completely damaged houses will be given Rs400,000 while those whose houses are partially damaged will be paid Rs160,000. Besides, the returning IDPs are also being given plastic sheets and tents.
FDMA assistant director Mian Adil Zahoor says that the repatriation process of the remaining IDPs will soon be completed. He adds that the repatriation process was started in March 2015 and so far majority of the displaced persons have been relocated to their hometowns.
“Our prime objective is to facilitate the smooth return of the IDPs. We want to give them maximum facilities. We have also been endeavoring to pay compensation amount to the owners of the damaged houses,” he maintains.
This article has been translated from the TNN programme “Da Manzal Pah Lor”, which discusses about FATA TDPs or repatriated peoples’ rehabilitation development and the concern. The programme was produced by TNN producers “Shan Muhammad” and “Abdul Qayum Afridi”.