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Naya Pakistan: PM Khan announces a 10 year-long development plan for Tribal Areas

News Analysis |

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s plans to spend over Rs100 billion annually for 10 years in the newly-merged tribal districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This move marks the beginning of a new era in previously Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), containing 2.4% of Pakistan’s population, areas of Pakistan. It is a group of seven Administrative units called Agencies namely Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North, and South Waziristan.

The premier tweeted: “Living up to our commitment, a three-week consultative process on a 10 year-long development plan for former FATA is being initiated, starting from Bajaur. Our people in the tribal area will see unprecedented development as [the] government plans to spend over Rs100 billion annually for 10 years in tribal districts.”

On Friday, the PM inaugurated the Sehat Insaf Card Scheme for the people living in the tribal districts. PM Khan also mentioned that his focus shall remain on developing the tribal areas by ensuring eradication of poverty and provision of employment opportunities to the youth.

Poverty and illiteracy are the elements that lead to insurgencies. Baluchistan has already witnessed that; the vulnerable people become pawns at the hand of enemies in such situations.

It may be noted here that on 24 May 2018, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the FATA Reforms Bill, merging FATA, a Pashtun majority area along the Afghan border, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The merger is considered a big step toward bringing constitutional governance and restoring peace to these areas.

The peace and order in tribal areas faded away in the 1990s when militancy took its roots and started dominating the political discourse of FATA. The emergence of the militancy created social, cultural, and economic problems for the natives. It led to an unprecedented rise in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Pakistan.

Experts argue that several military operations to eliminate terrorists from the tribal areas have adversely affected socio-cultural settings of the area. Therefore, the incumbent government needs an overall reform package in order to upgrade the damaged system of governance and the rule of law.

Read more: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passes landmark FATA bill with a two-third majority

Salman Bangash, Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Peshawar, believes that “the historic constitutional and legislative changes that have brought about Fata’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a first step in the right direction, but due to complexities, intricacies, and numerous hurdles, it will be a gigantic task to implement them”.

“Major problems and challenges,” argues Mr. Bangash, “of such implementation include modification and changes to the prevailing tribal administrative set-up and to the role and responsibilities of existing officials and various tribal forces such as the Levies Force and Khasadars.”

There are several rare natural resources prevalent in FATA such as marble, copper, limestone, and coal but their extraction remained minimum due to the ongoing war on terror. In the backdrop of FATA’s merger with KP, it is widely hoped that the incumbent government shall focus on building schools, colleges and employment opportunities in the region.

In North of Pakistan, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is the manifestation of the exact phenomenon. The movement that started for basic constitutional rights has now become the propaganda tool for non-state actors.

According to data provided by the FATA Secretariat in 2017, there are 5,957 educational institutes — mostly schools — in the tribal areas. Out of the count, 812 are not functioning properly due to an absence of teachers or students while 44 are completely closed. Experts suggest that education and health facilities be introduced in the region in order to mainstream all seven agencies constituting formerly FATA.

Social rehabilitation can only be done by educational reforms. People have been deprived of basic necessities there for too long and suffered due to the war on terror. Poverty and illiteracy are the elements that lead to insurgencies. Baluchistan has already witnessed that; the vulnerable people become pawns at the hand of enemies in such situations.

Read more: FATA’s merger into KPK is not a guarantee of socio-economic prosperity

In North of Pakistan, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is the manifestation of the exact phenomenon. The movement that started for basic constitutional rights has now become the propaganda tool for non-state actors. To counter such movements and above all, restore peace in true essence, education is the way forward.