The Future of FATA after Zarb-e-Azb

The Future of FATA after Zarb-e-Azb

Pakistan is one of those unfortunate countries affected by the greatest plague of this age – Terrorism. It took a huge hit on Pakistan’s economy, social life, tourism, and nation’s image in the international arena as well. However over the years, the country struggled its way out of this sickness with government taking necessary actions and the Pakistan Army playing the vital role. Currently, Pakistan is going through an internal conflict in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), and it is on war in that region with the terrorists, and the operation is codenamed as Zarb-e-Azb, literally meaning a sharp strike, and also ‘Azb’ was the name of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sword as well. The operation is a joint effort of the government of Pakistan and the Army, and it was initiated back in June 2015. It has almost been a year since the fight began, but it is rational to say that one day the operation will be concluded and the life will be back to normal in FATA. But the real issue here is that will the life ‘really’ be back to normal in FATA? Is the Government of Pakistan taking necessary steps in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the region? Is there really a plan for day after?
Barack Obama will be soon ending his second-term as a president of the United States. He is considered as a leader who is far more progressive than his predecessors; however he commented recently on the invasion in Libya, declaring it as a biggest mishap of his tenure since they did not have a plan for day after.i This example is definitely not linked with Zarb-e-Azb, but still a lesson can be learned from it. If the government of Pakistan fails to address the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the FATA region, it is highly likely that all the hard work done by the Pakistan Army will go down the drain.
It would be unfair not to recognize the efforts done so far for the rehabilitation of the IDPs (Internally Displaced Person). A document published by UNDP states that there are around 2 million IDPs that needs to be resettled,ii and this might be easy on eyes but it is not an easy job for the government. With the help of different NGOs, UN and aid by other countries, the report also addresses that there will be five phases of the resettlement:
Phase 1(March 2015-July 2015), Phase 2(August 2015-November 2015), Phase 3(December 2015-March 2016) and Phase 4 (April 2016-November 2016).
FATA Housing programme is ongoing as well, with a purpose of rebuilding damaged and destroyed houses.iii When all this process is witnessed, it seems like everything is going in order and soon everything will be, definitely, back to normal in FATA. However, I believe there are certain issues the Government of Pakistan needs to address. Rehabilitation of FATA is not just about building houses and resettling people, it also concern security, governance, and education.
Out of these three, the biggest issue is security. From FATA region, Pakistan shares border with Afghanistan and the border security on that side is fragile if it is compared to how strong it is on the other side with India. Taliban can enter the Afghan territory when the Pakistan Army is closing down on them, and there is always a threat of their return. Problem here is that when the Pakistan Army eliminates the terrorists, it creates a vacuum of power and when there is failure of fulfilling it by the government, a new type of extremists comes out and takes control; hence the problem here is absence of strong governance. FATA needs a strong structure of governance with proper checks and balances and transparency, and as it is “Federally Administered”, government should be concerned about it just like they are concerned about their other federal territory, Islamabad. It might not make sense when there is a comparison done between a capital of a country and a conflicted area, but at the end of the day, the 2 million IDPs are also Pakistanis just like the rest of the population.
Last but certainly not the least, is education. Education is considered as a backbone of any country, and in FATA it may be seen as huge problem to face. Of course, FATA faces problem not just in education but health, agriculture and economic development as well, but with proper education being available to every citizen in that area, the other mentioned problems can be tackled. Also, when people are not educated well enough, there is a chance they might fall for the extremist ideas. Back in 2010, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy disclosed how suicide bombers are trained, and how they are brainwashed to such an extent, that a disgraceful and inhumane act like suicide bombing becomes their gateway to heaven. It can be easily concluded that there was certainly a failure of governance because they failed to take an action against such ‘schools’, and not everyone having access to education, since they do not know what is moral and immoral.iv
Government of Pakistan and the Army took a huge step to fight against terrorists in the country, and to show the world that Pakistan is not an empathizer of such an ideology. However, the government needs to work on the rehabilitation of the area with the same enthusiasm as well, and should not leave the entire burden on the shoulder of the Army, since they have done their job which is to secure the area. What comes next is the responsibility of the government, as they need to reconsider their foreign policy with Afghanistan on the issue of security, work on the strong governance in FATA, deal with the issue of Education, and does not forget the sacrifice done by the soldiers of Pakistan Army.

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