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Pashtun Tribe Lost 11,000 Houses In Pakistan’s Waziristan Offensive

A photograph taken from a Pakistani army helicopter shows empty houses whose roofs have been removed by the army during an operation are seen in the South Waziristan tribal district on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, May 2016.

TANK, Pakistan -- In another sign of the staggering price paid by civilians in Pakistan’s struggles against terrorism, members of one Pashtun tribe have lost more than 11,000 houses.

A Pakistani official said members of the Mehsud tribe have lost more than 11,000 houses in their South Waziristan homeland. This mountainous region on Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan has been the scene of a large-scale military offensive against the Pakistani Taliban.

More than half a million Meshuds were displaced by Operation Rah-e Nijat, which began in June 2009. Since then, many have returned to their towns and villages, but some still await government assistance in rebuilding their lost homes and livelihoods.

“Our previous survey revealed that 6,500 houses were affected. In a recent study, we established that another 4,500 houses had also been destroyed,” Mohammad Shoaib, an assistant political officer in South Waziristan tribal district, told RFE/RL Radio Mashaal.

Shoaib, a senior local civilian administrative official, is now trying to help the Mehsud return to what is left of their homeland after being displaced for nearly seven years in the nearby districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank.

“We have already distributed more than 1930 million rupees (Ed: nearly $19 million) to the owners of more than 6,500 houses,” he said. “We have now asked for more funds to pay the owners of the remaining 4,500 houses.”

Shoaib said the government is paying nearly $4,000 in compensation to those whose houses have been completely demolished and $1,600 to homeowners whose properties are only partially damaged.

He also said authorities will conduct future surveys to identify more damaged properties and help in rehabilitating displaced Mehsuds.

Many tribespeople, however, complained that the government assistance is not enough to rebuild their large mud houses. The high-walled structures typically require years of hard labor and materials worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Shoaib agreed. He said that Waziristan authorities, tribal leaders, and representatives of the region have petitioned senior Pakistani officials to consider paying out more in compensation.

“Waziristan is not the only tribal district in need of help. We are trying to ensure an equitable distribution of all foreign aid here,” he said.

Aid agencies estimate that more than 3 million civilians were displaced in South Waziristan and six more tribal districts, collectively called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, during the past 12 years of unrest in the region.

The Mehsuds have paid a high price for being caught in the epicenter of the Pakistani Taliban insurgency that has seen more than 60,000 civilians, soldiers, and insurgents killed in more than a decade of terrorist attacks and military offensives.