BANNU - Stranded Mehsud families, who had taken refuge in different parts of North Waziristan after military operation Rah-e-Nijat (2009), are running from pillar to post to find a safe passage from the troubled tribal agency to the settled districts in the wake of ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb, tribal and official sources revealed.
A massive number of Mehsud tribesmen from South Waziristan had taken shelter in North Waziristan when security forces launched operation Rah-e-Nijat against Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), total of 27,819 displaced families were living in Dera Ismail Khan and 13,517 families in Tank while an unspecified number of unregistered people had shifted to other areas. Out of them around 20,000 people had taken shelters in North Waziristan.
Although, the government claimed that operation was over, the Mehsud families could not be repatriated to their native villages due to Taliban’s threats and poor law and order situation in the area. Now, when the residents of North Waziristan are fleeing the area due to the ongoing military operation, the Mehsud IDPs are being barred from leaving the area through Saidgai Checkpoint in Frontier Region Bannu.
According to FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), around 455,597 people, hailing from Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar tribes have left North Waziristan via Saidgai Checkpoint so far. However, the Mehsud tribesmen were not allowed to leave the area, as the government has not yet formulised any strategy for their exit from the region.
“We can neither go to South Waziristan nor we are allowed to leave North Waziristan via Saidgai Checkpoint,” said Kamalud Din Mehsud, who is waiting in Bannu for an opportunity to bring his family from Razmak, North Waziristan. We tried multiple times to leave North Waziristan via Saidgai Check Post but we were sent back by the authorities as the registration process is only confined to Wazir and Dawar tribes. Locals of the area revealed that thousands of Mehsud IDPs in different parts of North Waziristan like Razmak, Garium and Datta Khel etc are trapped and cannot leave the area. While living on the mercy of God, these families have almost lost hopes to survive during the ongoing military operation.
Aslam Noor Mehsud whose family is left behind in Razmak, North Waziristan said, “I have lost contact with my family and some Wazir tribesmen who arrived in Bannu informed me that our family members, especially the women and children, are in the depths of despair.” He further said that during the ouster, the Mehsud tribesmen were neither allowed to cross Saidgai via foot nor in vehicles. “The Mehsud were barred from crossing into Afghanistan or to return to their villages in South Waziristan,” he added.
A prominent Mehsud tribal chief Malak Masood-u-Rehman said, “Around 20,000 Mehsud tribesmen are stranded in North Waziristan. We have suggested to the government to open Jandola-Sararogha Road to enable the Mehsud families to reach safer places in South Waziristan.” He said that the same route could also be used if the government wants to evacuate Wazir families from Razmak. “If no action is taken in this regard, the Mehsud tribesmen could die of starvation,” he added.
According to Pir Aqil Shah, a leader of JUI-F in North Waziristan, the innocent Mehsud tribesmen should be allowed to leave the area, as it is not safe for them in such conditions to stay in North Waziristan. “Whether they are Wazir, Dawar or Mehsud, all have the right to leave the area for safer places, as they are Pakistani citizens,” he added. The government should not take action against the whole Mehsud tribe on the bases of involvement of a few members in militancy. “Their houses are already destroyed and despite government’s claims, the process of rebuilding could not take place in the Mehsud heartland. They are already the victims of the military operation and they should not be victimised further,” he said.
Farooq Mehsud, a journalist who extensively covers FATA said, “The government has time and again claimed clearing almost 95 per cent area in Mehsud heartland from the militants. However, in the process of repatriation that was kicked off on December 4, 2010 so far only 12,000 families have returned to their homes. The remaining IDPs are compelled to lead miserable life—— the stranded Mehsud families in North Waziristan is one of the leading example.”
According to Mehsud tribesmen, the political administration of South Waziristan seems uninterested to resolve the issue of stranded families.
However, when contacted Islam Zaib, Political Agent of South Waziristan, said, “We have taken up the issue of opening Sararogha route with military and political administration of North Waziristan.” He said the Mehsud families could use the route to leave for safer places out of North Waziristan.