FATA colleges breeding ground for militants
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR: NWFP Governor Khalilur Rehman has said that education would help ‘change the mindset’ of people living in the tribal areas of NWFP. His comments referred to the tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan where ‘jihadi feelings’ refuse to die down.
The United States is also making efforts to emphasise the importance of education in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the hope that it will deliver the desired results.
US National Security Advisor Steve Hadley inaugurated the USAID-funded school in Khyber Agency last year underlining America’s efforts to change the tribesmen’s mindset.
However, the Government Degree College in Mir Ali town of North Waziristan is a breeding ground for anti-American feelings with students supporting local Taliban fighters, sources told Daily Times on Tuesday.
More than 15 students of the college were killed in fighting the US forces in Afghanistan and in military action in North Waziristan, a fourth year student of the college told Daily Times.
The last student of the college to be killed in action was Abdul Wasit when a house was bombed near Mir Ali on December 1 in which Al Qaeda’s top commander, Abu Hamza Rabia was also reportedly killed. “Pro-jihad feelings are high among students,” the student said. “Young students in particular are inspired by jihad and they praise the activities of local militants against Pakistani security forces and Americans in Afghanistan.” The number of pro-jihad students is on the rise, the student said.
“Students in favour of jihad and local are about 60 or 70 but what is disturbing is that this minority is dominating the majority,” he added.
Since the federal government did not extend the Political Parties Act to FATA it gave Islamic parties an edge over liberal and democratic forces to sway local population and students were no exception.
The main political party functioning in the region was the nationalist Awami National Party.
In December, a musical programme was organised to welcome new students but local militants warned students not to run the programme.
“We are not studying for the sake of getting some government job. We are here to become educated members of the Islamic movement. I think the Taliban need educated members,” a pro-Taliban student told Daily Times.
A senior teacher at the college said that at least one in four families had lost a member to ‘jihad’ and the youth were inspired by the tribesmen against forces fighting the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“The tribal youth are the biggest casualty of the war on terror in FATA. As you know the best education one can get is at home and there is no tribal family without pro-jihadi sentiments,” the teacher told Daily Times.