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Waziristan. Hard Homecoming

Pakistan’s military instills patriotism in returning refugees

North Waziristan is a region in northwestern Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan. It is peopled mainly by religiously conservative Pashtun tribes, which have lived primarily outside government control. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda operated virtually unhindered in this mountainous area for years.

In 2014, the Pakistani authorities finally launched a military operation to drive the Islamic militants out. The two-year offensive displaced 930,000 people from 80,300 families.

In a strictly controlled trip organised by the Pakistani military, an RT crew ventured to this infamous region to get an exclusive look at how the returnees are welcomed back to their homeland.

The crew gets a glimpse of a heavily guarded and monitored entry point at the border, where returning residents receive greeting leis, medical treatment, and vaccines – as well as screening for terrorist links. The filmmakers are shown a model ‘deradicalisation centre’, a boy’s home, a boarding school, and a refugee centre for returning residents, all built and run by the Pakistani military.

However, our film crew discovered that, in many ways, life in Waziristan has changed very little since the terrorists were ousted, as it is the authority of extreme religious traditions that rule here, regardless of who is actually in control.

This is particularly true for women, who must still fully cover themselves and are prohibited from speaking to men from outside their family without the presence of a male relative. Men’s attitudes haven’t changed much either – many see themselves as members of a tribe rather than citizens of a country, and view the Pakistani army and authorities as foreign intruders.

To see how this notorious area is recovering after years of conflict, watch “Waziristan. Hard Homecoming” on RTD.