Given the troubled past and all the struggles and difficulties endured by the resilient people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), now part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, durable peace and stability in the FATA region was considered as a utopian aspiration. But to the disappointment of many despoilers of peace in South Asia, peace and stability did return to the tribal areas of Pakistan and life in FATA did return to normalcy to a large extent, however, a lot still needs to be done.
After a protracted and costly fight by the military and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) of Pakistan, supported by the people of Pakistan, FATA region is well on its way to become one of the country’s thriving hub of political activity, trade and tourism. Following the dreadful terrorist attack on the Army Public School in 2014, Pakistani military opted for launching several kinetic strategies to regain control of the area, establish writ of the government and to rid the region from terrorists and their hideouts. Simultaneously, the government and the Pakistan Army also initiated different health, education, sports, and developmental projects to rehabilitate the people of FATA and improve their standard of living. The affected communities and villages in FATA are being rebuilt, infrastructure is being improved and access to basic utilities is now being provided for a better quality life.
The Pakistani military took it upon itself to reconstruct FATA and rehabilitate its people. The military’s entire strategy was based on the concept of winning the hearts and minds of the people, not merely through words but via action and implementation. Despite of difficult circumstances and meagre resources, Pakistani government and especially the Pakistani Army undertook this important task of gigantic proportions and executed it amicably. Their achievements are a testament to their professionalism, will, and their honest attempt at changing FATA and the lives of its people for the better.
According to government and military sources, out of the 3.68 million displaced people, 95% have been resettled in the cleared zones (after military operations). New infrastructure is being developed such as roads, bridges, telecommunication systems etc. which were non-existent before. The vibrant markets of FATA which were turned to ruins by the militants, especially that of North Waziristan have been rebuilt. The entire fabric of the social system is being rebuilt by the state such as educational institutes, hospitals, health centers, water supply schemes, military-run Cadet Colleges, social welfare centers, playing grounds and mosques.
The people of FATA have out rightly rejected the narrow, ethnicity-based slogans that were being fed and sponsored from abroad by displaying faith in the state of Pakistan and its armed forces. In turn, the Pakistani state and armed forces have reciprocated by delivering what was promised. Besides the return of peace and stability, 336 schools were built and reconstructed in FATA. 2500 students are undergoing education in Cadet Colleges at the moment. 37 health facilities have been constructed along with 70 new business hubs and 3000 new shops. Moreover, the first Agricultural Park of Pakistan was also constructed in Wana.
Wars never have any positive outcomes but looking at the protracted war against terror in FATA in hindsight, one of the outcomes has been the mainstreaming of FATA into national politics after its merger with KP despite severe resistance and spoilers. Now, all agencies that constituted FATA have become regular districts of KP and state have established legal and administrative control. PM Khan and Army Chief General Bajwa have continuously reiterated their resolve to develop the erstwhile FATA. A sum of Rs. 100 billion have been given by Pakistan Army out of its share for the development of FATA & Balochistan.
Furthermore, Rs. 5 billion have been appropriated for 7 projects under Tribal Areas Electric Supply Company (TESCO) along with Rs. 4 billion for energy and power on Chapari Charkhel hydropower project in Kurram tribal district, Rs. 1 billion for launch of Rescue 1122 service in the Frontier Regions and development of industries in the current year (2019). Over Rs. 1 billion have been reserved for the Insaf Rozgar Scheme in the region.
Government of Pakistan (GoP) has also extended the Sehat Insaf Card (Rs. 750,000 per family) for all in FATA. Hasty construction of check dams to avoid floods, tourism promotion centers, small industrial zones (Mohmand and Bajaur districts), a medical college in Kurram district and tube wells across the region is underway.
Inspite of all the hard work and sincere efforts, there has been some problems as well. Such as political irritants like Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a “movement” which has been neutralized or the setting up of judicial structure which is taking time due to great financial cost (Rs. 14 billion). But FATA has crossed the Rubicon of perpetual instability and crises and such problems will also be overcome eventually now that the worst part is over. Police system have already been introduced in the previously ‘No Man’s Lands’ and is improving gradually.
A great future awaits for the Pakistan in general and for FATA in particular after this merger which is one of the major developments in Pakistan’s history. Governmental departments have been extended to FATA which will provide employment opportunities for the educated lot of FATA. The merger was supposed to take 5 years but the task has been accomplished in 5 months time. Elections in FATA took place recently on 16 provincial assembly seats with 4 indirectly elected seats for women and 1 for minority member. GoP has pledged that an amount of Rs. 100 billion will be spent on FATA for the next ten years to develop the region and bring it at par with the rest of Pakistan, thus giving the people of FATA all the rights enjoyed by rest of the citizens of Pakistan.
Now, the bright future of FATA belongs to its people which is ultimately going to be Pakistan’s victory. But this victory came at a heavy price. A price that was paid by Pakistan in terms of precious lives (civilians and military/LEAs’ personnel), economy, infrastructure, international image and societal decay. This victory could also not have been possible without the resolve and agreement of Pakistan’s politico-military leadership. The strong pursuit of policy objectives by Pakistani leadership and the sacrifices by Pakistan’s armed forces played a vital role in establishing peace and tranquillity in FATA.
After enduring an extended period of difficulty over the last two decades which included blame game and isolation in the international community, the world at large now admits and appreciates the role of Pakistan in war against terrorism and for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan is the biggest beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan and supports a political solution to the Afghan conundrum which is owned and led by the people of Afghanistan. Leadership of major world powers now support Pakistan’s stance on peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s successful purge of proxies launched by its enemies have revealed Pakistan’s intentions for peace and cooperation and the merger of FATA with KP was a step that is a testament of that Pakistani resolve and will.
It is pertinent for Pakistan to facilitate peace in Afghanistan because it will ensure peace of the erstwhile FATA. The GoP in general and KP government in particular should focus on good governance in FATA and provision of services efficiently. Alongside, the Pakistani government and rest of the Pakistani nation needs to display patience, empathy and affection towards the deprived people of FATA because FATA had been administered under special laws and Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) for the last 117 years and getting accustomed to the new system will take some adjustment time. Similarly, it is also expected from the greater Pashtun wisdom of the tribal people to utilize and make the best of this opportunity for development and progress and shun the slogans of hate and division and embark on the road to perpetual peace and prosperity together as one nation.