Pakistan refugees stranded at UNHCR's Jalozai camp
Islamabad: The fate of more than 61,000 refugees, who are presently ''stranded'' at the UNHCR's Jalozai camp in the southeast of Peshawar, lies in the hands of the Pakistani military.
Due to this continued instability caused by stalled military operations, more than 350,000 people from the Bara district, a longtime commercial hub, have fled to Peshawar, the closest relatively safe metropolis.
In Bara, where fighting has levelled homes, shuttered hospitals and businesses and impoverished those who have remained behind, the Pakistani Taliban influence is growing, some residents said. This is particularly worrisome because convoys carrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan wind slowly through the surrounding areas, vulnerable to attack, reports The Washington Post.
The hardcore militant ranks are believed to number about 500.
Estimates of troop strength on the Pakistani side - mainly the paramilitary Frontier Corps, commanded by Pakistani Army officers - top 5,000, but neither figure could be independently confirmed, the paper said.
At Jalozai, the largest of the three UNHCR camps left in Pakistan, the Bara refugee influx hit an alarming high of 10,000 a day in mid-March.
Officials say food supplies in the camp are running short. Children are regularly screened for malnutrition, but there is not enough money to monitor most of the refugees who live elsewhere in the Peshawar area, the paper added.
Pakistani military and government officials deny the persistent US argument that Pakistan tolerates and even promotes attacks by some militants to ensure a proxy role in the Afghanistan endgame.
When US officials raise such accusations, Islamabad points out that Pakistan has sacrificed considerable blood and treasure, including 25,000 civilian deaths. It cites the displacement of 3.5 million citizens as part of the cost of carrying out military operations.