Authorities in Pakistan have begun sending home some of the two million people displaced by military action in the troubled Swat Valley.
The offensive in April was aimed at Taliban militants who had overrun the region. The army claims it has been successful in uprooting the Taliban. One man preparing to leave a refugee camp said: “We’re thankful to the government for all the facilities here. We’re very thankful they’re sending us home now. Peace is our main priority now.” The exodus from the Swat Valley was described as one of the biggest human migrations of recent times. Another man returning home said: “I am scared of going. If I go back and there’s another battle then I have to come back again. Anything can happen there.” The huge displacement of the civilian population stretched Pakistan’s resources to breaking point and prompted a global appeal for humanitarian aid. The army says more than 1,700 militants were killed in the fighting; independent casualty estimates are unavailable. Experts, however, point out that none of the Taliban’s leaders were among those killed, leading to fears the fighters could re-emerge.