Islamabad: Over one million internally displaced persons may soon be allowed to return to strife-torn North Waziristan region with the Pakistan Army giving the go ahead, in the first clear sign that the military operation in the tribal region might be nearing its end.
The army launched operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' in North Waziristan in mid-June to flush out foreign and local militants from the mountainous region, which displaced over one million people who were shifted to makeshift camps.
The Express Tribune quoted an unnamed military official saying that the internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be allowed to return to their homes in areas which have been cleared of terrorists.
He said army chief General Raheel Sharif approved the phased repatriation of the IDPs after reviewing the progress made so far in the North Waziristan operation.
The army chief spent a day in the corps headquarters in Peshawar on Saturday, where he was given a detailed briefing about the operation, as well as possibility of allowing the IDPs to return to their homes.
He said the early return of the IDPs was his top priority.
Army will finalise the plan to return the people after consultations with civil authorities, the military official said, adding that the civilian authorities must also play their due part in the rehabilitation of the IDPs.
"It is not the military's job alone but also other civilian authorities who will have to come forward and play their role," he said.
The official, however, refused to give any time frame for the completion of Operation 'Zarb-e-Azb'.
The IDPs might be allowed in areas which had been cleared of militants but the military operation would continue in areas where militants were still hiding, he said.
Claiming that the command and control structure of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been destroyed, the official said that the ability of the militant group to carry out terrorist attacks has been considerably weakened.
The army, however, may still not formally announce the end of operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' for strategic reasons, he added.
So far over 1,200 militants had been killed in the operation.