Showing posts with label Life in Pakistan Tribal Areas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life in Pakistan Tribal Areas. Show all posts

Time To Decide The Fate Of FATA

After the security situation somehow improved, the FATA Parliamentarians tabled the bill in the National Assembly seeking merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtukhwa (KP). The tabling of this bill actually highlighted once again the issue of FATA - whether it should be brought under the umbrella of parliament or left as it is to the prerogative of president, a ceremonial head of the state, who only controls FATA.

We have seen a lot of uproar in the past two months over social and conventional media about the fate of FATA. Social media users were rigorously using twitter hashtags of MergeFATAWithKP, FATAMerger, FATAMergerWithKP, taking to Facebook to share their views about FATA status. There was all of sudden this groundswell of opinion seen everywhere in FATA and KP as FATA Siyasi Ittehad (FSI) supported by Awami National Party (ANP), Jamat-i-Islami (JI) , Jamhori Watan Party (JWP), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Peoples party took rallies to D-chowk of parliament to press for the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Conventional media also carried many stories on this subject. But the crescendo of voices died just as suddenly as it had erupted. Why?

The FATA parliamentarians (yes, theoretically they are parliamentarian but practically they cannot even legislate for FATA) for whatever political reasons gave up on the proposed 22nd amendment tabled and pursued by them in the parliament and that happened after the government constituted a “special powered” committee with no members from FATA to decide the fate of the region.

Like always, someone else is deciding the fate of tribal areas in the presence of FATA representatives. That is why the FATA Siyasi Itehad (FSI) rejected the formation of this committee, while the FATA Grand Alliance (FGA)- an alliance of Maliks (tribal elders) welcomed it because they want an elected council or province for FATA and rejects merger of FATA with KP. Jamiat-ullema-e-Islam JUI (F) also rejects merger of FATA with KP.

The FGA and JUI (F) think that becoming part of KP will undermine importance of tribal traditions such as Jirga and other customs. What they don’t know or don’t want to know is that those living in KP are also Pakhtuns and has been happily exercising their traditions whether that is Jirga or anything else even under the umbrella of parliament. This sort of parallel system exists everywhere in Pakistan. For instance, take Punjab where you will find Panchayat. In Sindh, the Wadera system continues to exist. Aren’t they tribesmen having traditions? I guess nobody is saying we’re better than them.

And also this notion that tribal people are better – by way of tradition and values - than those living in KP is in fact racism. It hurts one to see even tribal educated folks saying that Pakhtuns in KP have compromised their traditions and they don’t want to be part of it. We don’t have to be rocket scientists to know that Pakhtuns living in KP are better educated with more schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, courts, playgrounds, and far better established infrastructure which is being used by people from tribal areas since ages.

So what is the best possible scenario?

If the government makes the tribal areas a part of KP, the tribal people will get rid of centuries old draconian law known as Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) that prohibits freedom of expression and speech and this will ultimately contribute to information economy, which is absent in this region since becoming part of the country.

If the government makes it a part of KP, the tribal people will get out of the isolation syndrome that is preventing them from change and thus they will embrace physical and emotional development.

By becoming part of KP, the almost 10 million population of tribal areas will add to KP and that will increase the province's share in the NFC Award because it goes to the provinces on the basis of population.The mainstreaming will open up FATA to business, tourism, communication, if not immediately, at least after a few years and people will experience a positive change.

KP and FATA share a common ethnicity and therefore they understand each other well because many tribesmen from Bajaur to South Waziristan have been living in KP for many years and for many reasons.Also geographically, KP and FATA are connected and dependent on each other for education, health, business, and communication.

If someone has to go to Orakzai from Bajaur, he has to go through Peshawar and Kohat as there is no direct road between these two. And there is even no direct road that connects all agencies. Making such road is next to impossible because one has to break the mountains that are separating agencies.

In case of having FATA as a separate province from KP, there will be disputes on which agency will be the capital of FATA and that could be tough decision to make. The FATA areas even don’t have their own civil servants and they borrow it from KP. And finally, now the military establishment also likes to see the fate of FATA decided because the local administration has badly failed to counter radicalism and militancy.

The best possible scenario available at this time for FATA is to merge with KP. And if the FATA Parliamentarians invoked the 22nd amendment and passed it from the parliament, they will be remembered as saviors of FATA in the days to come.

Tayyeb Afridi talks about mobile news project providing free news to people in FATA and KP

During his fellowship at Stanford, Tayyeb Afridi explored, discovered and embraced new approaches to creating and operating independent news organisation and launched the Tribal News Network to serve the Tribal Areas of rural northwest Pakistan. “I realised that journalism is not only a public service, but also a business and should be treated like a business,” Afridi explained.

“This entrepreneurial aspect of journalism was a transformative experience for me.” Through his experiences and coursework at Stanford, Afridi also came to see that developing an information economy is vital to creating an informed society in his home region, because it would bring both jobs and information that people need. 

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.

Militancy Harms Families In Pakistan's Tribal Areas

Published in the KUT NEWS----Austin, Texas University.       

Khyber Agency:  A gate way to Central Asia from  Pakistan's Tribal Region                          

Two outlawed groups have been fighting each other for years in the Khyber Agency, a tribal area of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan. The Khyber Agency is also known as the gateway to Central Asia. The militant groups are Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) and Ansar-ul-Islam (Brother of Islam).

Pakistan security forces intervened in the fighting in 2008 when they launched operations in a subdivision of the Khyber Agency called Bara. The operation against these outlawed militant organizations was codenamed "Sirat-e-Mustaqeem" (The Righteous Path).

The operation continued into 2009 and intensified. That’s when the Lashkar-e-Islam, which previously banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in their territory, allowed TTP in Bara subdivision.
TTP’s mission was to fight first against Pakistan security forces for aiding the United States in its so-called War on Terror, that began with the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam fled to the mountains and engaged in war so intense that they began slaughtering each other. No Islamic scholar has issued a fatwa (religious edict) related to this case, except Maulana Hassan Jan. Maulana publically reject the movement of both militant groups and said they have nothing to do with Islam. He was killed soon after this comment.

After his death, no one in Northwest Pakistan has dared to try to calm the dispute. It has only expanded with the passage of time. Now, every family in the Khyber Agency has had a relative killed by one or another militant group.

For example, the Afridi tribe living in Khyber Agency has two homes. One is in Bara and the other is in Tirah Valley. In summer, one brother used to go to Tirah Valley while the other brother used to arrive in Bara in winter.But after the establishment of militant groups, the two brothers find themselves in opposite theological groups. One found himself in Lashkar-e-Islam, based in Bara. The other found himself in Ansar-ul-Islam, based in Tirah Valley. The families stopped visiting each other and started killing each other.

In this way for the last seven years, war is engulfing the Pakhtun people in general and the Afridis in particular. Everyday mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are mourning their beloved ones.

Pakhtun society is male-dominated. Women don’t have say in the life of male partner. The women have to accept whatever decision a man makes, regard of his religious affiliation, even if it could cost him his life. If she resisted, she would be told that her job is to give birth, nurture children, keep the house clean and cook food. She has no further role. Therefore, women are paying for the decisions taken by such men. They have been made widows, orphans and ill-fated mothers when men are killed.

One among those women was my friend Nasrullah Afridi's wife. Nasrullah was 40 years old, and he didn’t surrender to threats of these militant groups, despite repeated requests from his wife. She pleaded many times but he replied that he could leave her, but he couldn't leave journalism. And that’s exactly what happened to him. He left his wife for journalism when he was killed by a car bomb.
She has been in mourning since May 10, 2011, wishing her husband should have gone to America with me on Journalism Exchange Program and prevent this from happening. She sent me a message through my wife to help collect her husband’s radio interviews, discussions on national and international radio, because she wants to keep his voice alive, this time only for herself.

My another journalist friend told me that his eyes were opened that how family suffers, especially in Pakhtun society where some women have to spend their entire lives with only memories.