“When the death looks greener than starvation” manifests the phenomenon of depravation as a drift towards extremism. Societies that have tendencies towards these extremist feelings are somehow deprived of their social, political or economic rights.
The region of FATA for the longest period has been facing the immense government overlook and the populace has for years been deprived of their social and economic rights. The elimination of this socio-economic deprivation lies in bringing the FATA into the socio-economic mainstream. In FATA where the internal vulnerabilities are so high, the government should pay more attention by initiating development projects and making it a part of Pakistan like the rest of the developed cities. Whenever there exists a vacuum between the government and the people, it will result in some radical elements satisfying that gap.
It is an open secret today that the neglect by many of Pakistan’s governments that have come and gone over the years has resulted in the socio-economic deprivation of the people of the FATA. The WOT further amplified the socio-economic deprivation, as the people who lost loved ones and belongings were not compensated for their losses. The present government should thus formulate policies and development plans to bring this downtrodden society on the right track.
Pakistan’s tribal areas have some of the worst social and economic conditions in the world. The contemporary situation in FATA has been a result of years of neglect by the governments and the extremely high level of socio-economic deprivation that has in the post 9/11 period culminated into a vast menace of terrorism. The socio-economic deprivation that has resulted in terrorism in FATA is the failure of the government to provide the people of the region with desperately essential socio-economic resources, including basic facilities in health, education and communications. The failure to tackle such socio-economic deprivation of the residents of the FATA may eventually lead to the outburst of a very severe reaction.
There is a huge scarcity of educational institutions in FATA. The situation worsened when the existing schools were targeted during the WOT. Many times by the radicals, as according to them, these are nurseries of English culture, and at other times by the military forces to target the fundamentalists, who used to take refuge in the schools during the time of combat. This often resulted in dragging the children into drug addiction and the Kalashnikov culture or they would be employed by the hard liners for suicide attacks.
It is imperative for the concerned authorities to do the essentials to stop this deviance and exchange pens for of weapons. There are three schools in the locale, two governments and one private school. The lack of schools in the region and the failure of the government to address this issue have left a vacuum between the people and the government.
The history of FATA is replete with killing and blood-shedding, but there was until recently no instance of suicide bombing in the area’s whole history. The trend of suicide bombing was introduced and has became so popularized that almost everyone, especially the teenagers, are being inducted into suicide squads in increasing numbers, much of it as a result of 9/11 and the killing of innocent people in the military operations.
Teenagers are very susceptible to suicide bombings because they are unemployed, poor, lesser educated or not educated at all, etc and they have not seen the other side of the coin i.e. happiness, prosperity and to live a full life. Like the dearth of other developments in the region, there is serious shortage of basic medicines, such as first-aide medicines, snack-site medicines, painkillers etc. When so ever problems arise, the inhabitants of the village have to travel to the Agency Headquarter hospital in Miran Shah.
In the absence of transport facilities in the war-torn region, it becomes a hectic job to reach the headquarter hospital in time. At certain times the patients or the wounded people have died on the way to the hospital. The greatest dilemma of the area is their backwardness in every sphere of life, since the concerned area has been neglected by the authorities not only in operations but from the very beginning. The extensive areas have only three main civil hospitals such as Agency Headquarter hospital Miran Shah, Mir Ali hospital and Razmak hospital.
However, those people who live near the above mentioned hospitals can rarely avail of the benefits of the hospitals because of the absence of medical staff, such as doctors and practitioners who abandon their duties due to the uncongenial environment prevailing in the region. The indigenous doctors and practitioners are less in ratio and they are not in a position to serve the people of the concerned area.
Secondly, there is a wide spread of lethal diseases due to lack of health-care awareness, which results in uncorresponding arrangements between the hospitals, medical staff and patients. Extreme poverty and lack of communication facilities, such as telephones, are also instigators of a deprived feeling in society.
FATA prior to the military operations was also lagging behind in economic growth. The only people who have access to these facilities are influential government officials or elites. Thanks to Talibanization, after 50 years the government realized that FATA must be linked to the mainstream of Pakistan.
According to a document “Cost of Conflict in FATA” released by the FATA Secretariat 2005, damages caused by the terrorist acts to the public buildings and infrastructure, hospitals, schools, water supplies and private property are estimated at RS 8270 million. A massive number of speedy development projects were initiated to integrate inaccessible areas of the tribal belt into the mainstream with all time high allocations of Rs.5150 millions in the annual Development plan for FATA during 2005-06.
In all Rs.10048.539 millions will be spent in FATA during next few years with funding for several PSDP, Pakistan Army and Foreign Aided Projects. North Waziristan was allocated Rs.678.955 millions. The per capita government-funded development investment in FATA comes to Rs905 compared to the national per capita figure of Rs2044.
The government launched several small development projects and roads, however often these are interrupted by the clashes between the Taliban and Pakstan Army.
The lack of the government to initiate such development projects in the past has led to the prevalence of extremist elements in the region as the poverty stricken people of the area were deprived of the basic amenities of life.
The above mentioned indicators of socio-economic deprivation truly depict the level of progress this region has made since Pakistan’s independence and how much attention has been paid to the socio-economic issues by the many governments.
Although before 9/11 the socio-economic deprivation was also relatively high, the level of prosperity and peace in the region was also more prevalent. But after 9/11, FATA became the front line area of Pakistan in the WOT. Thus the reasons behind such drastic differences lie in the reality that the governments of both the Pakistan’s people’s party, the Pakistan Muslim league and the military dictators have neglected the development of this area.
The provincial government in the NWFP plans to initiate a $4 billion development fund for the Frontier province including the FATA region. The new government in Pakistan should implement a comprehensive strategy to better integrate the FATA into Pakistan’s economy and body politic. The Government’s objective should be to persuade the people living in this traditionally autonomous region that their interest lies in supporting the Government’s efforts to bring development to the area.
Reforms in FATA would be the most important measure that can bring peace to the region and strengthen Pakistan. Therefore it is extremely essential that this sense of deprivation should be removed and the government must take the necessary initiatives to bring about a new and developed FATA.
These people who have been the victims of the government’s neglect over the years deserve the same amount of facilities as the rest of the country. As a peaceful environment can only be achieved by employing the peaceful modifications even in unyielding societies like FATA, only than we could see this strategic piece of land as prosperous heaven integrated fully in the Pakistan’s mainstream.