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Pakistan’s Displaced Begin Return Home

by AFP

File Photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Officials say families who fled to Afghanistan will be returning to their homeland through Jan. 26.

Thousands of Pakistanis who fled to Afghanistan to escape fighting between the Army and militants in the northwestern tribal areas began returning home on Monday, two years after they were displaced, officials said.

The first batch of 200 tribal families from North Waziristan, or some 2,000 people, were being greeted by officials at the Ghulam Khan border crossing, local administrator Kamran Khan Afridi told AFP. He said similar numbers would be arriving daily until Jan. 26, with the families first accommodated in camps before being sent back to their villages and towns.

The Pakistan Army launched an operation in June 2014 to wipe out militant bases in northwestern tribal areas and bring an end to a bloody insurgency that has cost thousands of civilian lives since 2004. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to leave North Waziristan by the offensive, many fleeing over the border into Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities say 67,000 homes in the tribal belt were completely destroyed, but there has been no independent assessment of the scale of the damage. The country has asked the international community for $800 million to “rebuild and rehabilitate” the tribal areas.

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