Conference told fabric of FATA eroding

ISLAMABAD: The second day of the international conference titled “FATA - in the Shadow of the Military Pullout from Afghanistan,” was inaugurated with the keynote speech by Lieutenant General (r) and former governor of Balochistan, Abdul Kadir Baloch. He started off by speaking on the dire situation in FATA that includes radicalization, large-scale military operations and target killings. 
He stated that the social fabric of FATA was eroding, there was a lack of proper infrastructure and the government was trying to find a solution. There is no proper leadership, and government officials lack the authority to carry out any influence. Mr. Baloch acknowledged that there were no proper institutions, and binding laws therefore laws are needed to be reformed. He stated that people of FATA needed to test democracy, have transparent elections and local government was needed to suit the customs and traditions of locals. There is also a need to have a suitable plan for the development of the tribal region but that can only be done if the security situation is under control, and relative peace is in the horizon. The situation in the bordering Afghanistan is also a cause of concern, and it was reiterated the there is no place for the Taliban, and their brand of Islam in all of Pakistan. Mr. Baloch remained optimistic that even though the solution  to help FATA was not going to be an easy one there was a good chance reforms would yield the appropriate results.
Ambassador (R) Ayaz Wazir chaired the Session III on “Strengthening Local Democracy”. The first speaker, Mr. M. Zahoor, from FATA Secretariat, began his presentation, and explained the rationale of the local government in FATA that included promotion of social, and economic development, and provide democratic and accountable government for local communities. He did acknowledge that at the moment there is no local government in FATA that is working properly right now. Mr. Zahoor did mention the efforts by the FATA Secretariat where an agency council idea was nominated that would deal with issues pertaining to health, and education but it lacked resources, and authority. Other reforms such as TARUCCI were also introduced that involved a social transformation of FATA from a rural-tribal society to more urbanized, cosmopolitan, and progressive society. The 2012 FATA local government regulation was also mentioned which so far has had no successful outcome. Lastly it was emphasized that the way forward was only possible if there was a legal framework for reform, and the need to 
work on the hearts, and minds of the local population to produce a conducive environment. 
The second speaker of the third session was Mr. Habib Malik Orakzai, Central President (PIHRO), and Chairman Mutahidda Qabail Party (MQP). Mr. Orakzai started off with his recognition of important milestones in the history of FATA, the extension of Pakistan’s Political Parties Order of 2002 to the tribal areas, and the amendment of FATA’s Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). There has been steady increase in political participation over the years, and the last general election showed both political parties, and candidates from FATA gaining ground as well as a good voter turnout. Mr. Orakzai stated that functioning political parties were needed, and a healthy democratic society was not possible without giving essential rights to its citizens. There has also been a coalition of sorts in the Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms which provided recommendations for reforms in the tribal areas. Issues like amending Article 247 of the Constitution are some of the ideas being presented. The government needs to do more and encourage reforms be it political, social or economic in FATA. Mr.Orakzai recommended that FATA was a neglected part of Pakistan, and should be given an identity, and be declared as a province. 
The third speaker, Ms. Zartaj Gul Wazir from PTI, stated that in FATA the “Kasturi” flower’s fragrance has been replaced by smell of bomb blasts, drone attacks, bloodshed, and destruction. FATA has now become a “Wild Wild West,” and the people of the region are termed as Taliban and Jihadis. No single Pakistani president or prime ministers has ever visited the region. Like other Pakistani’s people of FATA are also human beings, but they were mishandled in the past again and again. If these people are mishandled again it would be very difficult for the people of FATA to bear this treatment. She said that the world know what Americans want from FATA, what Saudi’s want from FATA, but know one knows what the people of FATA want for FATA. The government is looking for masters like Baitullah Mehsud to govern these areas, but not willing to give them their rights, and to develop this region. There is already no freedom for the people of FATA, but the government even want to deny them their breathing space. The condition of health, safe drinking water, and education is very poor in FATA. The elected representatives of FATA invest money to win in this area, and then they never visit these areas, and do not even pay attention to the development of these areas. She further added that democracy is good, but how it will accommodate the traditions of Jirga system is still unclear. FATA should be made a model agency by political, social and economic development. The People of FATA are equal with other Pakistani’s and they should be given equal rights for education, and social economic development. 
The fourth speaker, Mr. Ikramullah Jan Wazir from Khyber Agency, stated that media is portraying a negative image of FATA, even the rate of crimes is less if we compare it with crimes in Karachi. The people of FATA are peace loving, and they love democratic values. The Jirga system in FATA played a very responsible role to maintain peace and order. After becoming a part of Pakistan, the people of FATA have always defended their borders with out any interests, but the government has done nothing for that region. 
People were even denied of their basic rights, and justice. The people of FATA want justice, and equality like other Pakistani’s. Our elected politicians just spent huge money, and corrupt local institutions to attain their objectives. They use drugs and black money to win these elections, but they do not contribute to the political, social, and economic development of this region. Therefore, there is need to end this corruption. Political process should be initiated by politically educating local population which then form a local government setup. Media should play its positive role to bring political awareness among local population, so that they can raise a united voice for their region.

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