The United Nations today said that a total of 61,000 refugees, driven away from the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Khyber, are stranded at the Jalozai refugee camp. The camp, funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), lies to the south of the city of Peshawar. An estimated 500 armed insurgents remain active in the Khyber region despite the operations by the Pakistan Army, making it difficult for the refugees to return home.
The local residents claimed that the Pak army operations are failing to meet the desired objectives. They added that the influence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is growing in the region, despite suffering severe casualties. According to the analysts, the new developments can cause more trouble for the NATO, rather than for the Pakistani authorities. The major supply route towards the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) bases in Afghanistan passes through Khyber. Last week, the gunmen allied to the TTP shot dead a truck driver, who was driving a NATO supply truck.
The Pakistani army has been conducting military operations against the TTP in Khyber for the last three years. Despite inflicting heavy damages upon the militants, the Pak army has been so far unable to completely root them out from the region. Local residents blame the fighting between the TTP and the army responsible for widespread destruction of residential areas, hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure.
The Pakistani army’s failure to eradicate the militants has raised a few eyebrows among the local defence experts. Unlike the other militancy affected regions, the strength of TTP in Khyber is estimated to be only a few hundreds. On the other hand, the government side numbers more than 5,000 servicemen. Most of the Pakistani forces in the region are composed of the paramilitary unit Frontier Corps (FC), while the Pakistani Army is believed to have deployed several hundreds of its soldiers in the region.
Some of the refugees accused the Pakistani forces of intentionally elongating the battle, for sinister needs. Locals claim that if the army want to eradicate the militants from the region, then they will be able to do it in a matter of few months, if not less.