Fresh military manoeuvres in northern Pakistan displace 25,000 people

© UNHCR/S.Riaz

Military operations against insurgents in north-west Pakistan's Mohmand Agency displaced around 25,000 people in early February. UNHCR believes that this figure could reach 90,000 by the end of the month if the fighting intensifies.

UNHCR has established two new camps to accommodate people fleeing the Sagi and Dawezai areas of Mohmand agency. Many of those arriving at the camps have little more than the clothes on their backs, meaning winter clothes and shelter are urgently required.

The two camps are the first to be established by UNHCR for conflict-displaced Pakistanis within the tribal areas of the north-west since military operations against insurgents began in 2008. In previous waves of conflict people fled to settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, seeking refuge in and around the city of Peshawar.

As well as providing tents, blankets, warm clothes and hot meals, UNHCR is advocating that displaced people be allowed to move further afield to stay with relatives and friends in Peshawar or other settled areas. "We are urging authorities to ensure displaced people have freedom of movement and we have deployed staff to monitor the situation," said Mengesha Kebede, UNHCR's Representative in Pakistan.

UNHCR is also concerned at reports from people arriving at the camps that some young and middle-aged men have had difficulty leaving the conflict zone. The refugee agency urged the authorities to ensure that any screening activities to identify militants do not prevent civilians from leaving the area for safety.

Successive waves of conflict in Pakistan's tribal areas mean that today there are around one million people displaced, including almost 140,000 people from Mohmand agency. Of these, most live among host communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Some 147,000 live in three camps in the province with most (138,000) at the Jalozai camp in Nowshera district.