Sardar Mehtab Ahemd Abbasi, the governor of northwestern Khyber Pakthunkwa province, made the announcement on Monday as hundreds of frustrated refugees staged a sit-in outside his house in the provincial capital, Peshawar.
“The internally displaced persons will start returning home from the middle of February,” the governor announced, visiting the town of Bara, in Khyber Agency.
More than 500,000 tribesmen were forced to leave Khyber Agency in October after the Pakistan army launched an operation to flush out the Taliban-linked Lashkar-e-Islam militant group.
The return of Khyber Agency’s displaced residents coincides with the return of more than 1 million internal refugees from the adjoining North Waziristan tribal area, which was hit by another anti-militant operation that began in June.
The army claims to have killed more than 2,100 militants in the ongoing operations but, as media have been barred from entering operation-hit areas, the figures cannot be independently verified. More than 200 soldiers have also been killed in the ongoing operations.
The military operations have already forced 1.5 million tribesmen from North Waziristan and Khyber Agency to the adjacent Peshawar, Bannu, Karak, and Lakki Marwat districts.