Pakistan relaxes curfew to allow people to leave north Waziristan
Islamabad - XINHUA
Authorities in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region, where security forces have launched a major air and ground offensive against the local and foreign militants, on Wednesday relaxed curfew to allow thousands of people to flee to safe areas, officials said.
Over 50,000 had fled the region ahead of the massive assault on the hideouts of the militants in parts of North Waziristan.
Thousands were stranded at homes when fighter jets carried out air strikes on positions of the militants on Sunday.
The authorities on Wednesday announced a three-day relaxation in curfew and asked the people to leave before the deadline.
Sources of the political administration of North Waziristan Agency told the media in the northwestern city of Peshawar that the curfew will remain relaxed from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. during these three days.
A tribal elder Malik Habibullah told Xinhua by phone from Miranshah that the people have taken a sigh of relief at the decision to allow them to shift to safe places.
He however said the fleeing people are facing difficulties to find transport, adding that many people, who did not find transport, are even walking on foot as they want to go out within the specified time.
The authorities have issued a schedule for people of different areas to leave home, tribesmen said.
The people of Mir Ali and Razmak, two main towns in North Waziristan, have been asked to vacate their areas and shift to safe places on Wednesday.
Residents of Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, and Ghulam Khan, a town close to the Afghan border, will shift to safe places on Thursday and tribesmen of Datta Khel on Friday.
Officials said the authorities have established special centers to register the displaced persons for government aid. The government has announced an initial aid of 500 million rupees for the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The authorities have also established a camp for the IDPs near Bannu, a main city near North Waziristan, however the IDPs have not moved to the camp and are renting houses in nearby cities. The IDPs said there are no facilities at the camp and they cannot stay there in the scorching heat.
Tribal sources said that hundreds of families have also crossed into Afghanistan's Khost province where the Afghan authorities have set up a big camp for them.
As the military offensive gains momentum, Pakistan military has asked the Afghan security forces to seal the border to stop the entry of fleeing militants.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and also sought his cooperation to make the anti-militants operation a success, official sources said.
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmad Shekib Mustaghni, said Afghan forces will not allow any militant to enter the Afghan side of the border. But he said the Afghan government will extend help to the Pakistani IDPs.