By Malik Achakzai
BANNU, Pakistan (Inzuna) – Some come in cars, and others on animals’ backs. Some just walk underneath the hot desert sun. But thousands of people (66,237 according to official sources), among them women, children, and the elderly are arriving in Bannu, Pakistan with their families as they flee North Waziristan.
The exodus began when the Pakistani army launched the Zarb-e-Azb (The Great Strike) operation against insurgent groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), al-Qaeda, and East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), in its sanctuaries of Mir Ali and Miranshah, in North Waziristan.
According to Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations Agency (ISPR), the country’s Public Relations wing, an organized evacuation of Internally Displaced People (IDP) continues from North Waziristan towards Frontier Region Bannu, near Peshawar. 200,000 people have been evacuated from the area, and “11 families [92 individuals] have been enlisted in the IDP camp, Bakkakhel, Bannu,” the news agency reported.
Asim Bajwa, ISPR’s spokesperson, announced on Twitter that all Army Ranks will donate 1 day’s pay for the displaced, and donate rations to meet the IDPs most urgent needs over the next 30 days.
The National Registration Authority is using computerized checks for registration of IDPs to ensure no “terrorist” leaves and fake identity card holders are caught, Bajwa said.
“Most of our elderly and children are ailing. This is the third day we started our journey on foot. We are poor and could not afford the 50 to 70 thousand Rupees ($500-$700) to hire a truck for our family [27 people],” said Dad Shah, 45. “The roads are jammed and the government has not provided transportation for the far flung villages of North Waziristan. The vehicle fares are high because no driver wants to risk his life. Vehicles can get targeted in the operation.”
Army checkpoints in Bannu provide IDPs only with juice, not enough for a family that hasn’t eaten in three days, Shah added.
It is taking days for people to reach Bannu from North Waziristan. Thousands of vehicles loaded with women and children have jammed up the streets.
“We are in between life and death,” Khalid Aziz, who fled his hometown of Miranshah and made it to Bannu in three days, told Inzuna. “Our families are waiting under the hottest sun for monitoring on different checkpoints”. Temperatures average 37°C/99°F at this time of year in Bannu.
Other IDPs are fleeing toward Afghanistan but have faced many hurdles, including army checkpoints in Bannu, Karak, Tank, and other areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, explained Fawad Dawar, 22, a student at The University of Agricultural, Peshawar.
The author speaking with Fawad Dawar, 22, a student at The University of Agricultural, Peshawar.
“Our people are not provided any kind of assistance even though the displacement of thousands of people is itself a ‘disastrous situation’. No family has been provided basic needs of food, health or pure drinking water”, said Dawar. “Our relatives living in different cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provide shelter to the IDPs families. Otherwise no national or international organizations have stepped in to assist in this humanitarian crisis.” USAID has, however, announced that will disperse $8 million for IDPs food needs.
“The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government has immediately released Rs.350 million ($3,548,349) for IDPs. All the affected families will be paid Rs.5 thousand ($50) each upon arrival and will be paid Rs.7 thousand ($70) every month regularly,” said Pervez Khattak, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in a recent parliamentary meeting. He also explained that housing arrangements are being made.
Khattak directed authorities to register and shelter IDPs while focusing on providing them with health facilities as well during the hot summer days. He said that it is essential to make adequate arrangements to administer polio drops and vitamins to children and the elderly. He said that an emergency must be declared in all the relevant hospitals and health centers. He said that the provincial government will ensure immediate release of the required funds in this regard.
“On the way from Mir Ali, two women, two men, and four children died [8 people]. Most of them couldn’t bear the warmest weather, and old men and women were an easy target of death,” said Khalid Aziz, 35, from Mir Ali, who reached Bannu.
“The children, who are ailing, and old men cannot bear the skin-burning sun’s rays. That’s why they die. We couldn’t bear the death of our loved ones. We didn’t even have water for them to drink on the way,” said Khalid Aziz.
Journalists and other organizations are not allowed to report on the miserable situation of the tribal people from North Waziristan, specifically those from Miranshah and Mir Ali, a senior journalist from North Waziristan told Inzuna on request of anonymity.
“We cannot report anything other than the military version… The same has happened to international donor agencies. They are not given permission to take part in this humanitarian crisis”, he explained. “People are being affected by this deadly operation… [but] not given shelter and basic human necessities, and international organizations are not allowed to do so,” the source said.
Photo: Malik Achakzai
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