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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2704

People displaced by militancy in northwest Pakistan can return home next week: PM Gilani

By Farzana Shah-Asian Tribune Correspondent in Pakistan

[caption id="attachment_2022" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani "]Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [/caption]

Islamabad, 10 July, (Asiantribune.com): Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday that nearly two million people displaced by a massive offensive against the Taliban in the northwest could start returning home next week.

‘The displaced people will start going back from July 13. The special support group will finalise the strategy from today and will make a procedure for their return, security and other arrangements,’ he told a news conference.

The Pakistani security forces launched an offensive against Taliban fighters in late April in the northwest after militants tried to consolidate their control further south towards Islamabad.

The operation sparked a huge exodus as people rushed to safer places to escape ground and air assaults.

Most of the displaced people are living with relatives while others have been sheltered in camps in different districts of NWFP.

On Wednesday the military announced that operation was being winded up as northwest Swat valley and surrounding districts of Buner and Lower Dir are almost cleared of Taliban militants.

The prime minister said soldiers would remain on the ground after people return.

'The army will remain in the area for the security of the people and the reconstruction process of the affected areas will start soon', he said.

‘More than 1,700 militants were killed during the operation. Our soldiers also made sacrifices. Some of them were injured. Some of them were disabled, but they eliminated the extremists,' Gilani told reporters.

'We are proud of our soldiers. We salute them on behalf of the whole nation and the government,' he added.

Although Pakistani prime minister has announced the return of the IDPs but on the other hand visiting UN humanitarian chief John Holmes on Wednesday said the 1.9 million Pakistanis uprooted by anti-Taliban offensives must be not be pushed into returning home before their safety and security is assured.

He said the displaced were at a 'critical turning point.' '(We are) trying to make sure people are not pushed to go home too quickly,' said Holmes, as he visited displaced people in the northwest town of Mardan.

'We are at a critical turning point when people may start to go home and may not,' Holmes told reporters.

‘If they start to go home, it’s one situation. That becomes very difficult for most people and we have some very big problems to address in the future. 'The conditions need to be right — that is the security needs to be right, the basic services need to be there,' he added.

- Asian Tribune -

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