Pakistan starts resettling war-hit South Waziristan tribes
Pakistan on Sunday launched a process of resettling tens of thousands of tribesmen displaced in a major offensive in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan last year, officials said.
Pakistan's military launched a sweeping offensive into South Waziristan last October aimed at wiping out the nerve centre of the main Taliban faction behind a wave of attacks that have killed about 3,400 people since July 2007.
The government has now set up two centres for registration of people who want to resume normal life in the rugged mountainous region, local administration official Mudassar Riaz Malik said.
More than 40,000 families or some 300,000 people fled their homes during the offensive in the area, which was known to shelter battle-hardened Uzbeks and Arabs with links to Al-Qaeda.
The military is now pursuing insurgents believed to have fled to the other six districts that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
South Waziristan's displaced have mostly been staying with relatives, friends or in rented houses.
"The registration centres in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan towns started working today and the response was good," Malik told AFP by telephone. The actual resettlement process will begin soon after registration is over, he said.
"We want to resettle all those who had been displaced," he said adding that two more centres would be established to expedite the work.
The returnees will be provided with food and other essentials in addition to cash assistance to help in resettlement, he said.
The government offered to begin resettling displaced people earlier in the year but the tribespeople proved reluctant to move until the situation was completely stabilised, tribal sources said.
Malik said troops would remain in the area to ensure peace and security and would "stay there as long as needed".
The military confirmed it was providing security for the process.
"It is a joint effort, we are involved in the repatriation process," a military official said.