Home Latest News Fearing Military Action, Thousands Flee Pakistan’s Tribal Badlands

Fearing Military Action, Thousands Flee Pakistan’s Tribal Badlands

by AFP
IDPs arriving in Bannu, Jan. 22. Karim Ullah—AFP

IDPs arriving in Bannu, Jan. 22. Karim Ullah—AFP

Some 13,000 internally-displaced persons now reside in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Thousands of Pakistanis continued evacuating from North Waziristan on Sunday fearing an imminent military operation against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants holed up in the lawless federally-administered tribal agency.

Residents said some 1,500 families or about 13,000 people left their villages around the towns of Mir Ali and Miranshah for the relative safety of Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, and Peshawar.

“People are unable to find houses to go to in Bannu, so many women, children, and old men are lying out in the open,” said Rafiullah, 25, a resident of Musaki village in Mir Ali. “Many others have gone to Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan to find some shelter.”

Pakistani government officials said that up to 8,000 people had arrived in Bannu, a Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa town bordering North Waziristan agency. “We can estimate up to 700 families and around 8,000 people have arrived in Bannu,” said Arshad Khan, head of the FATA Disaster Management Authority. “No military operation has been announced in the tribal area. So there are no instructions to make arrangements for the internally-displaced people.”

Another government official in Miranshah said a military operation was not on the cards. “No military operation is going to take place in Miranshah and Mir Ali. So people should not leave their houses and should stay there,” said Siraj Ahmed Khan, a senior administration official.

The exodus began earlier this week when Pakistan Air Force fighter jets bombarded the area following a series of militant attacks on security forces and civilians which killed more than 100 people in a week. Many civilians are also claimed to have been killed in the airstrikes.

North Waziristan is one of seven semiautonomous regions in Pakistan’s federally-administered tribal areas. It is said to be a hub of Al Qaeda and Taliban-led militants and the U.S. has long urged Pakistan to launch a full-scale military operation there. Owing to its own strategic calculations and fears of a militant backlash in major cities, Pakistan has so far declined.

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