Showing posts with label FATA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FATA. Show all posts

Tribal News Network in Pakistan will start producing local news for mobile phones

Photo courtesy by Hani Tah
The radio and online news outlet Tribal News Network (TNN) in Pakistan reports on areas and topics which the mainstream Pakistani media usually overlook. TNN news bulletins are currently broadcast on local radio stations in the local language, Pushto, and online in Pushto, Urdu and English. Soon listeners will be able to simply call a number on their mobile phones to listen to TNN news bulletins.

Tayyeb Afridi, the co-founder and director of TNN, emphasized the importance of the new mobile phone news bulletins: “Lots of people in rural areas and in some urban areas don't have access to a landline phone or to television. But they have a mobile phone, especially in the Tribal Areas, to speak to relatives and family members.”

TNN was established in 2013 to produce independent news in Pushto for the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwestern Pakistan, and the nearby Tribal Areas along the border with neighbouring Afghanistan. In troubled Pakistan, mainstream news outlets focus heavily on politics and security issues. TNN however makes a point of reporting also on developments in health, education, business and culture. Tayyeb Afridi, the director of TNN, talks about the impact the organization is having, the new mobile phone news bulletins, and a documentary about the news outlet broadcast internationally on Al Jazeera television.

What is TNN about and how is it developing?

“In 2013, we started producing news bulletins for local radio stations. These five-minute daily news bulletins are broadcast by a number of local radio stations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Tribal Areas. We also have radio partners in eastern Afghanistan, so our bulletins are broadcast there as well. Furthermore, we also train local radio reporters, for example in radio skills and in physical and digital security.
What makes us different from other media is our focus on local news. The mainstream media focus on security issues and ignore social issues in the rural areas. Our focus is broader, so development and good governance, for example, are important topics for us.
Now we're going to produce news bulletins which can be listened to on a simple mobile phone. We're going to produce hourly news bulletins of 2 minutes, every day between 8am and 8pm.”

Why is it an advantage to broadcast your bulletins via mobile phone?

“Mobile penetration in Pakistan is excellent, and now it is increasing in the Tribal Areas because mobile companies have extended their coverage to these far- flung areas. In the last few years, mobile penetration has dramatically risen. Moreover, our news bulletins will be available free of charge. The production of news bulletins for mobile phones will give us the opportunity to offer our news bulletins to a wider audience.”

In the 25-minute documentary that Al Jazeera television broadcast recently about your organization, one of the highlights is the fact that TNN is one of the few media outlets in your area of Pakistan that employs women. Can you elaborate on that?

“In the Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, women can't always work or go to school, or can't leave the house without covering their faces. It is very unusual to find female reporters in our conservative part of Pakistan.
We started an internship for female reporters. At the moment, our assistant-producer and six of our 35 reporters are women. I think it is important to have female journalists -- they can get access to stories that men cannot report on.”

Do your stories also help the communities you report on?

“Change in the communities is an important aspect of our project. If people have a problem, for example, water shortages or problems with the electricity, they text or call us. Our reporters talk with the responsible representatives and report about the issue.

A good example of a report that made a difference was the story of a female student who had topped the Education Board exams and, as per government policy, she became eligible to receive a scholarship from the government for further education. But she was denied that for a few months for no reason. She sent a text to us complaining that she had not been given a scholarship. Our reporter contacted the Minister of Education and he took strong notice of this news and directed the education authorities to award a scholarship as promised by the government. She received her scholarship within two weeks.”

This interviewed appeared on Free Press Unlimited Website:

Al Jazeera Documentary on TNN

Regi Model Project in Peshawar Yet To See The Light Of Day

Photo courtesy: By Regi Bachavo Tehrik 

By Tayyeb Afridi
Started 25 years back by the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA), Regi Model Town project has yet to see the light of the day—thanks to the successive provincial governments who failed to materialize the biggest housing project of the provincial metropolis.

Land dispute with the locals besides construction of an approach road are stated to be the main obstacles in the way of this mega 27,000-house project. “Actually, this land was not properly acquired by PDA” said Ali Akbar, vice chairman of the Movement for Saving Regi Model Town. Had it been acquired properly there would have been no disputes, he added.

The claims of the residents of Regi village and its adjacent Kokikhel tribe over the land could be addressed if the government was serious to resolve the issue. This is why, Ali Akbar said, two zones of the project—Zone 2 and Zone 5—stand disputed. However, there is no controversy over 1,3,4 zones of the housing project.

Apart from land disputes, there is no direct approach road to the township. Earlier, a link road through Kacha Garhi was planned as without this road the project will be a sheer failure.Over the last 24 years, the cost of the project has also increased manifold. At the time of planning its estimated cost was Rs. 7 billion but now it has jumped to Rs. 35 billion.
Perhaps that is the reason PDA is not building any school, hospital, or playground in the undisputed zones, said Arsala Khan, a member of the Movement for Saving Regi Model Town.

Started in 1991, the project came to the limelight in 2000, when Malik Saad, then PDA director general, accelerated development work on Regi, restoring the confidence of the people to invest in this township. However, his transfer from to another department once again delayed the much-needed project.
Subsequently in 2008, the Awami National Party (ANP) government also demonstrated lack of political will to continue development work on this project and resolve land disputes. Instead, they floated the idea of establishing a new housing project—Asfandyar Township.

The residents of Peshawar pinned high hopes on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to treat this project fairly as they came in power with a slogan of change and good governance. But so far no significant progress on this project could be witnessed. However, like previous governments, PTI has also constituted a committee to resolve land disputes.

It was expected that after successfully handling Hayatabad Township to owners, the PDA will be able to make this biggest housing project a success but the dream is yet to be materialized.

In Tribal Area: Radio Sensitize Public For School Education

A local radio station in Pakistan’s unsettled tribal areas has shown how important the media can be in spreading awareness of the importance of education. About 180 new students turned up at one government school in the town of Razmak in North Waziristan after the local radio station broadcast announcements telling parents that education in government schools was free. Most local parents thought they would have to pay for schooling. 

                                    The freshly admitted students are taking lessons from teacher.

North Waziristan is believed one of the main bases for militants causing instability in both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

The Razmak radio which was established in 2006 to bridge gap between people and government has started Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) campaign to educate people on development issues. It has, in this scenario, designed PSAs in March and broadcasted it throughout the month to motivate local people to enroll their children at the schools. Razmak town is relatively safe unlike other fata schools where schools were blown up regularly. Local media sources say that more than 300 schools have been destroyed or damaged by militants in the tribal agencies in the past few years. The government school in Razmak is more protected because the town has one of the main government military bases in Waziristan.

Bahadur Nawaz, principal of the Government High School Razmak said that his school used to have only 30 students. There is little tradition of formal education in the fiercely conservative tribal areas, and few parents send their children to school. When the Razmak radio broadcasted PSA, he has started receiving good response from people of the locality .It is conveyed to listeners that their children will be taught freely and they would be provided free books. After broadcasting the PSA, large number of parents has started coming in for admission. ‘In less than a month, the number of students at School have raised to 210’’ Bahadur Nawaz added. Most of the students, he had admitted in school were fresh and brought in by parents who were poor and couldn’t bear little expenses in the form of admission fee.

Bakhtawar Jan, station Manager at Razmak Radio said that this message has been repeatedly broadcasted over a month and he has received tremendous response from listeners, who calls to station; asking for further information about free education.

He added that those, who called in station, were first suspicious about the authenticity of this announcement but when they realized that its true then they questioned the qualification of teachers whether they are qualified . ‘You can see the curiosity and interest of the public from this’, he told. He has never imagined such a response to PSA which brought 180 students to a deserted school.

Gul Khatem, the father of eight years old Junaid said that he heard this message from radio and took his child straight to school for admission. “It was exactly free of cost as was said by radio” he told. His son was studying in 1st class when he pulled out his child from a private school because of expenditure, said Khatem, who hails to Sola Borakhel Village of Razmak sub division.

The principal said that still people are coming regularly for admission and even today he has admitted more eight (8) students. Apart from fresh students, he has also admitted those students who were migrated from private schools.

Mr. Abdul Haseeb, resident of Shankie village at Razmak told that his two sons have been studying in fifth class in a private school but when he heard this message; he couldn’t resist bringing in his children to this school for free education.

The principal added that people who are Internally Displaced from South Waziristan and living in camps at Razmak and Shawal have also responded very well and they brought their children for admission.

Conventional Judicial System: Youth in Fata is divided

Jirga Picture taken by Khyber. org

Jirgas are conventionally defined as a parallel judicial system, constituting of region’s elders that handle disputes and offer justice to parties concerned. The most important thing that this definition fails to cover is the fact that Jirgas also works like executive bodies, implementing their decision and ensuring that the conflicting parties respects the decision. If any party violates decree of Jirga, he is punished with fine and in case of non-compliance the violator is declared as “Kabar Jen” the Pashto term for a person who should be disrespected by all tribes in the region, for not respecting the Jirga. In extreme cases, the jirga can even ask other tribesmen to take up armed fight against the ‘Kabar Jen’.

In tribal areas, people believe Jirga is still famous for cheap delivery of justice as compared courts which are very technical and need more time in resolving issues. Subhat Khan, a local tribesman from Bara Khyber Agency, fully endorses Jirga believes that it is still capable of delivering justice on both domestic and political matter

“Elders who used to constitute Jirgas for common good of people or on general community issues to defend right of their tribesmen, are now busy carrying out the work for Political Administration. Obviously They now have to safeguard administration interests. So how can one expect tribesmen would believe in a system that is not delivering justice” says Fazal Rehman, a journalist from FATA; “Youth in FATA are now looking towards media for justice.” Fazal Rehman also believes that the newly introduced political party act will empower people, especially the youth, who are educated and politically aware how to exercise vote and how to make their elected candidates accountable.

Critics of the jirga system are many, but, Subhat Khan, doesn’t agree with the opinion that this conventional Jirga system has failed. He blames the government for using Jirgas as a tool to serve its own interests in post 9/11 era, thus soiling its image. Subahat Khan also added that ““In social disputes, the authority of decision has been given in soul and spirit to Jirga members and that is why people are satisfied with Jirga but unfortunately the same authority was not given to Jirga members to deliver on political fronts as vested interest of political administration are involved”; says Subahat, adding that Jirga can deliver if Jirga members are allowed to remain impartial.

Rafiullah from Swat highlights the importance of Jirga in resolving domestic issues but agrees that its political role is dubious “Yes, I believe Jirga has been playing its due role in social issues and people used to solve their domestic matters with Jirgas, but it has failed in case of political issues and we have seen that in Swat in 2009. Jirga has not delivered so far in terms of political issues when you look to the militancy issues of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and provincial administered Tribal areas (PATA) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, such as Swat”.

Rafiullah divides FATA’s youth in two categories. The first one, from 15 to 25 years of age, are termed as aggressive and wanted to see rule of law in action. “When provincial government decided to talk to Swat Taliban, the youth disliked that effort, which they perceived as handing over writ to Taliban.

The other group of youth, from ages 25 to 35 is open to anyone who has power to heel their wounds. They supported Taliban’s move to kill robbers’ dacoits in first place while after witnessing Taliban brutality they then supported security forces who released them from virtual siege of Taliban. They simply want the culprits to be punished either by Taliban or Government.

Unsurprisingly, this view doesn’t go unopposed. Fazal Rehman believes that jirga’s failure in political dispensation is enough for those who wants to ensure conventional means of justice. He says that the time is ripe for complete reform and FATA citizens should now choose the system that can address the modern day problems including terrorism and militancy.

Bakhtawar Jan, 29, from Razmak North Waziristan says that the social fabric of tribal areas is now divided on this point; to upgrade the existing system or to revert to conventional system of governance which incorporates the infamous collective clause of responsibility even in Frontier Crime Regulation imposed by the British Raj.

Fazal Rehman while maintaining his argument says that it is important to have laws for social and political dispensation of Justice. Those who want to resolve their problems through Jirga should be given that choice but having sacrificed lives and livelihood over the last ten years, he believes that FATA citizens should demand the same system the rest of the country is enjoying.

Subhat Khan, questioning the idea of mainstreaming FATA into court judicial system remains skeptical. “Can anyone ensure that the court system will resolve FATA’s problems and will ensure free and fair justice? Frankly speaking, I don’t like criticizing Jirga for failing in the provision of justice because we are expecting too much from Jirga while doing nothing to empower it”.