About 100,000 people have fled the troubled North Waziristan tribal region as curfew was relaxed in the area where the Pakistan Army has launched an all-out offensive against the Taliban, officials said on Wendesday.
The Pakistan Army has launched a ground and air offensive in the area known for having hideouts of the al-Qaeda-linked militants. Armed forces have so far killed more than 200 militants in the operation.
About 100,000 people have fled the troubled region since the start of operation on Sunday with the relaxation of a curfew of six days to let civilians move out of the conflict areas, officials said.
The curfew imposed on Sunday was relaxed from 7 am to 5 pm (local time) on Tuesday, allowing thousands of trapped civilians to leave the area, a security official said.
“The people were allowed to leave after through checking and verification in order to prevent the militants escaping in the garb of civilians,” he said.
Chief of FATA Disaster Management Authority Arshad Khan said that more than 92,000 people have already left North Wazirisitan.
“Some 30,000 have reached in Bannu city where arrangements have been made for their temporary settlement,” he said.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said at a press conference in Peshawar that over 70,000 displaced people were registered while more were coming.
“We expect more internally displaced persons in the next two days,” he said.
Federal minister Qadir Baloch, who was appointed by the government as chief of relief activities for displaced people, said 2,000 vehicles were arranged to transport the people from North Waziristan to Bannu.
Still thousands of people are waiting for transport to leave the area.
There are also confirmed reports from Afghanistan that over 3,000 of people have shifted to its border provinces.
Some leading Taliban commanders along with their dozens of fighters have also shifted to Afghanistan, sources said.
Taliban are roaming in the Khost bazaar and some other border areas of Afghanistan with their weapons, the source said.
“Mufti Sadiq Noor, well-known North Waziristan militant commander and affiliate of Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur shifted along with family to Khost from North Waziristan,” the source said.
The feared Haqqani militant outfit has already crossed to the other side of the border.
The Khost governor’s spokesman Mubariz Zadran told Dawn News that 3,000 families had been registered by Tuesday.
“There are reports that thousands of people have crossed into Khost after Pakistani authorities lifted curfew in North Waziristan. These people are without food and other basic needs,” he said.
Zadran said the Afghan government was trying to help the refugees while the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had also dispatched relief items for 500 families.
The government needs massive funds to deal with exodus of people from the war zone.
Officials said so far no decision has been made to appeal for international support as the government was making all out efforts to deal with the emergency through mobilisation of domestic resources.
The displaced people are facing problems as they prefer to live in private houses than camps as these tribesmen are extremely conservative. Their women wear traditional veils, covering from head to foot.
Rents of private accommodations have shot up due to shortages, forcing the people to put up at camps, media
Local media has reported some harrowing tales of displaced people.
A man named Azizur Rehman, a 42-year-old schoolteacher, fled Mirali riding on the bonnet of a truck.
“They start the day with artillery shelling early in the morning. Helicopters come for shelling during the day and jets strike at around 2-2:30 in the night,” said Rehman.
Many have streamed into Bannu carrying their possessions — quilts, buckets, mats, water coolers, even livestock and pets.
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