The Federal Minister for State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) General (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch has said that tribal people in general and Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan in particular rendered great sacrifices during the war on terror but the government failed to ensure their repatriation after nine long years of their displacement. Speaking at a ceremony regarding award of scholarships by the National Testing Service Pakistan (NTS) to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in South Waziristan, the minister criticised the government for failing to fulfill their promises, and criticised the constitutional setup that takes power away from his Ministry. Baloch‘s outburst of frustration over the IDP situation is the first from a government minister – admitting that things aren’t going as smoothly as proud advertisements in newspapers would have us believe.

Sadly, the days when repatriation of IDPs was a regular subject in newspapers and TV channels is also fading, but the problem hasn’t faded away. Despite the military’s repeated assurances that operation Zarb-e-Azb is almost over or in its ‘twilight phase’, the fighting in the tribal belt keeps going on. There is no fixed timetable to the end of the conflict and the IDPs are kept in limbo. There is no independent survey of how the repatriation effort is going in the areas the government cleared to proceed in, but if the disjointed cries of dissatisfaction from the IDPs – and now the minister’s criticism – is anything to go by it is not progressing well.

Abdul Qadir Baloch had it right when he said that the war against extremism is not going to be won by military action alone; the socio-economic uplift of the tribal belt to a standard of living comparable to other provinces is the final piece in the puzzle. The government and the military claim that they are well aware of the fact, yet military matters continue to supersede the rehabilitation effort. Recently the government bought eight F-16 jets from the U.S, at a cost that could have sustained the rehabilitation effort for year.

With winter coming, the refugees are set to face a hard time, it is hoped that the government is cognisant of their plight. The earthquake has been another scare for these people and while much support will go towards rehabilitation after the earthquake, support for the IDPs is but a trickle.