Islamabad: Curfew in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region, scene of a major air and ground offensive against local and foreign militants, was relaxed Wednesday to allow thousands of people to leave for safe areas.

Over 50,000 people had fled the region ahead of the massive assault on the hideouts of the militants in parts of North Waziristan.

Thousands were stranded at home when fighter jets carried out air strikes on militant positions on Sunday.

The authorities Wednesday announced a three-day relaxation in curfew and asked the people to leave before the deadline, Xinhua reported.

Sources in the political administration of North Waziristan Agency told the media in the northwestern city of Peshawar that curfew would remain relaxed from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. during these three days.

Malik Habibullah, a tribal elder, told Xinhua over phone from Miranshah that the people have heaved a sigh of relief at the decision to allow them to shift to safe places.

He however said the fleeing people are facing difficulties in finding transport, adding that many people who did not find transport were even going on foot as they wanted to leave within the specified time.

The authorities have issued a schedule for people of different areas to leave home, tribesmen said.

The people of Mir Ali and Razmak, two main towns in North Waziristan, have been asked to vacate their areas and shift to safe places on Wednesday.

Residents of Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, and Ghulam Khan, a town close to the Afghan border, will shift to safe places Thursday and tribesmen of Datta Khel Friday.

Officials said the authorities have established special centres to register the displaced persons so they become eligible for government aid. The government has announced an initial aid package of Pakistani Rs.500 million (over $5 million) for the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The authorities have also established a camp for the IDPs near Bannu, a major city near North Waziristan, but the IDPs have not moved to the camp and are renting houses in nearby cities. The IDPs said there were no facilities at the camp and they could not stay there in the scorching heat.

Tribal sources said that hundreds of families have also crossed into Afghanistan’s Khost province where the Afghan authorities have set up a big camp for them.

As the offensive gains momentum, the Pakistan military has asked the Afghan security forces to seal the border to stop the entry of fleeing militants.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and also sought his cooperation to make the anti-militant operation a success, official sources said.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmad Shekib Mustaghni said Afghan forces would not allow any militant to enter the Afghan side of the border, but added that the Afghan government would extend help to the Pakistani IDPs.

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