Tribals flee N Waziristan fearing military operation



Islamabad: Thousands of people have fled Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency in recent days, fearing a military offensive against the militants, locals and officials have said.

"Thousands of people have so far left the area, they are fleeing their homes due to the fear and rumours of a military operation," The Express Tribune quoted Saifur Rehman, a government official in the main town of Miramshah, as saying.

Panicky residents have hastily left the agency despite officials repeatedly insisting that Pakistan has no immediate plan to launch an offensive in the volatile region, they added.

Rumours started last week after a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban told local media that it had received "an exclusive intelligence report" about an offensive in North Waziristan.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the campaign was to be launched on August 26 and would last one month.

Government and military officials have taken to local radio, asking people to remain calm.

"This is a peaceful area with a peaceful atmosphere. The government has no plan to launch any military operation here," a radio announcement had said.

On Saturday, some 2,000 tribal elders and religious leaders warned the government to not to launch any offensive and threatened to move to Afghanistan "in case of any military operation".

Meanwhile, Tasleem Khan, the Assistant Political Agent (APA) of Miramshah said insisted that no military operation was possible without informing the tribal people.

"We have told the members of the peace committee to inform the tribesmen that we have not received any information about the operation in the agency," Tasleem said.

North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts riddled with militancy, is considered a stronghold of the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives. Although Pakistan has fought Taliban militants across much of the region it has so far withstood American pressure to move against the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

ANI