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IDPs refuse to vacate schools as deadline is at hand

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The internally displaced persons from North Waziristan Agency have refused to vacate schools in Bannu to the worry of the administration.

The administration had asked IDPs occupying school buildings in the district to shift to camps in Bakkakhel by Aug 20, saying these educational institutions will resume classes on September 1 after summer vacations.

Earlier, August 10 was the deadline for the purpose.

On Monday, hundreds of IDPs sheltering in schools demonstrated outside the Bannu Press Club to demand the withdrawal of the deadline.

Holding placards and shouting slogans, they said they won’t vacate schools until they were provided with shelter at some other place.

The protesters also demanded their early repatriation saying the army claimed to have cleared most North Waziristan of militants.
They appealed to the federal government to take steps for their safe return to homes saying prolonged stay in Bannu would adversely affect the studies of their children.

Ikramullah Dawar said first the Bakkakhel camps lacked facilities and second IDPs had no money to move there.

“We will not vacate schools until proper alternative accommodations are arranged for us. We will stage a sit-in outside the Governor’s House in the provincial capital if they’re forced to evacuate,” he said.

Shah Zeb said IDPs panicked after they were told to leave the school buildings.

He said the displaced families, who had money, would definitely shift to other big cities but eviction would adversely affect the poor families.

Currently, 7,322 IDPs have taken shelter at 313 government schools for girls in the district and 16,522 at 531 government schools for boys.

Overall, the district has 685 government schools for girls and 747 for boys.

An official of the local administration told Dawn that after schools were vacated by IDPs, the communication and works department would assess the damage caused to the buildings during the stay of the displaced persons.

He said the children of IDPs and their cattle would definitely have caused minor damage to school buildings and that several days would be needed for repairs.

The official said once the assessment was over, the government would provide necessary for repairs.

When contacted, additional assistant commissioner of Bannu Azizullah Khan said schools were vacated for IDPs in emergency but later camps were put up for them in Bakkakhel.

He, however, said most displaced persons had yet to shift to the camps.

The official said it was impossible for the administration to provide alternate buildings to thousands of IDPs in the district.

He said the presence of displaced families in schools would adversely affect the education of students, so it was direly needed to shift them to the camps in Bakkakhel.

Azizullah Khan said the studies of thousands of children would be adversely affected if IDPs didn’t vacate their schools in the district.

He said the people of Bannu had made great example of hospitality by accommodating IDPs in their houses, schools and hujras.

“The displaced people should vacate schools to let children resume study after summer vacations,” he said.

Another official of the administration said 217 families lived at Bakkakhel camps, where all basic facilities were available.

He said more camps with the capacity to accommodate 900 families were being set up.

Meanwhile, the local residents appealed to the government to evict IDPs living in schools.

“August 20 is at hand but IDPs have yet to vacate schools. We are worried about the studies of our children,” said Rehmatullah, whose children are enrolled in a government school.

He said he didn’t see any sign of IDPs leaving schools.

Published in Dawn

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