According to the FATA Secretariat statistics, the current population of FATA is estimated around 4.7 million.
Youth in the 15-25 age group is estimated at 802,535. Being important stakeholders of the FATA reforms process, the youth want reforms and have some suggestions and proposals to offer.
TNN conducted short interviews of young people from regions on the topic of reforms and here is what they have to say.
Kamran from Bajaur Agency said he is active in the political and administrative reforms in FATA and supportsthe forming of a separate FATA province.
“We arranged a programme sponsored by Bajaur Students Organisation in which we emphasised that all the FATA agencies should be given provincial status.”
Fazlur Rehman from Bajaur said the youth of FATA have been ignored in the reforms process. He said the youth of the tribal areas wants the same legal system in FATA as is in other parts of the country.
“We respect our elders and value their decisions, however the youth should also be given right to decide about their future.” he added.
Naheeda Afridi of Khyber Agency said ‘Takra Qabaili Khwendo’ organised several press briefings to draw the attention of people towards the problems of women in FATA and the need for solutions. “The people of FATA know better about their problems and their resolutions,” she said.
Naseeb Gul, from Mohmand Agency explains that not everyone gets a chance for opportunities; only the sons or relatives of the tribal Maliks get opportunities to progress. He blames the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) for this.
“We have set up an association named Mohmand Students Organisation for the rights of tribal youth. We have educated and ambitious youth, but unfortunately they cannot progress.The decentralization of power and abolishment of FCR will allow the tribal youth to make enlightened decisions for the people of the region. The tribal youth not only think for themselves, but for their tribes as well, while the Maliks want to maintain their grip on power and they don’t care for the well-being of other people,” he told TNN.
Abdullah Afridi, from Bara sub-division of Khyber Agency, tells TNN:
“I am an active member of Khyber Students Union which was established in 1978 to make organised efforts for abolishment of FCR. Inshallah, we will continue our efforts.” he said.
Israrul Haq, from Orakzai Agency, said he is also working for creating awareness among the FATA people, particularly the students, about their rights. He said the obsolete laws should be abolished.
“We have established our organisations in different schools and colleges of Orakzai Agency under the platform of Orakzai Students Organisation to create awareness among the people about the reforms process. Change in the administrative system of FATA is required for development of the region,” he said.
Similarly, Muhammad Ali Turi from Kurram Agency has initiated a campaign for abolishment of the FCR and FATA merger with KP by visiting different villages and creating awareness among the people.
“FATA don’t have the resources to becomeits own province. Therefore, the idea of a merger with KP seems to be the best option,” he said.
Nosheen Bibi from Orakzai Agency said the tribal youth are confused about their future prospects due to low literacy rate and lack of awareness on certain issues.
“We have some very enthusiastic women in FATA who have come forward to make an impact in the reforms process. However, low literacy rate of women in FATA means the outcome of these efforts will not be as good as it should have been,” she said.
Azmat Ali from Kurram Agency has started a campaign through the popular social media website Facebook to create awareness among the people about the damages of the FCR.
“I use this platform to keep the people informed about developments on the reforms process in FATA. I post stories and photos which reach 6,000 followers. FCR was introduced by British rulers and it should have been abolished on their departure,” he said.
Israr Mehsud, a resident of Ladha tehsil of South Waziristan, told TNN:
“Holding of local bodies’ polls in FATA is a must to give people access to basic facilities,” he said.
Jamal Dawar, a resident of Hadi village of North Waziristan, said the tribal youth are not taking keen interest in the reforms process which is not very encouraging.
“The FATA region is passing through a very sensitive phase of history. There are few voices for change in the existing system, but the overall situation is not very encouraging because our youth are not very keen in this regard. The youth should not show such indifference. The FATA people should be united to properly utilise this opportunity,” he said.
There are also many youth and student organisations taking part in the reforms process in FATA.
TNN conducted interviews withSamreen Khan Wazir, a lawyer and writer from South Waziristan, AamirAfridi from Khyber Youth Forum, Shaukat Aziz from FATA Students Organisation of Kurram Agency and NazMohmand, a student of Peshawar University hailing from Mohmand Agency.
TNN (from AamirAfridi): How did you perceive reforms process in FATA?
AamirAfridi: The world is making fast progress and the tribal youth don’t want to lag behind. However, when the reforms process started in FATA, some vested interests started putting obstacles. These elements don’t want development of FATA. The government’s FATA reforms committee also paid attention to people who were already privileged. Half of the FATA population consists of youth, but they were not consulted in the reforms process.”
TNN (from Shaukat Aziz): What in your view is the significance of the current reforms process in tribal areas?
Shaukat Aziz: Sixty-nine years after creation of Pakistan, the people of its provinces made significant development and made their future bright, but the people of FATA are still living in the dark ages. The FATA youth have no future and neither anyone is working on it because our elders are happy with the current way of life. The youth of other parts of Pakistan enjoy many benefits and opportunities, but our youth are treated with discrimination. This situation leads our youth to turn to negative activities. FATA desperately needs such reforms which can secure a better future for the youth.”
TNN (from Samreen Khan Wazir): How much is the reforms process is important for tribal areas?
Samreen Khan Wazir: Constitutional framework was introduced in Pakistan after its establishment and Article 247 of the Constitution dealt with FATA. The tribal areas were given a special status and FCR was imposed on the people. The FATA people endured great hardships under the FCR as under this law the whole tribe goes to jail for the sin of one person. In 2011, only superficial changes were made in the FCR. We are not satisfied with the ongoing reforms process.
TNN (from Naz Mohmand): A number of people are making efforts to make the reforms process successful. What is your contribution in this regard?
NazMohmand: We visited different tribal agencies in this regard, such asBajaur, Mohmand and Waziristan to create awareness about the FCR law. We have arranged press conferences on the issue. The Fata Reforms Committee did not invite us for meetings, but we used social media as a platform to participate in the process.
TNN (from Samreen Khan): NazMohmand has made good efforts for creating awareness among the women of the region about their rights. What was your strategy for pursuing your agenda?
Samreen Khan: The first and most significant step was to fully understand the exact status of FATA under Article 247 of the Constitution and FCR. We created different groups of youth to create awareness about FATA reforms that organised different orientation sessions in this regard. The people will be in a better position to give their views once they have knowledge on the issue. Our teams participated in every gathering, seminar, training, meeting and conference on FATA reforms. Our teams also paid visits to different tribal agencies and organised meetings between the young and older women and organised training programmes for them. Unfortunately, when the time has finally arrived for administrative reforms in FATA, those in power are not giving much importance to the youth of the region, especially the women. If the issue was of Pardaas per tribal traditions, then they could have organised all-women meetings at universities to get their views on the reforms process. We were compelled to raise our voice through press conferences.
TNN: You just mentioned about some training programmes. What was your main message for women in those training programmes?
Samreen Khan: Literacy rate, especially of women, is not very high in FATA. However, a huge improvement has been notedin the tribal areas where women are now going to schools and colleges and want to contribute towards the development of the society. For this purpose, we organised varioushome visitsto create awareness among the women on their rights. The tribal women were not much interested in political affairs but at least they know the impact of collective responsibility laws under which the whole tribe had to suffer if a single individual committed any crime. They did not know that section 30 of the FCR deals with collective responsibility, so we tried to get them on board by presenting some local events as examples. The FCR only mentions responsibilities of women and punishments for crimes, but there are no clear directions about their rights and responsibilities of the administration towards their rights like education etc. We briefed the women about these issues.
TNN (from Shaukat Aziz): What was your strategy to pursue your reforms agenda?
Shaukat Aziz: After assessing the present situation, we established FATA Students Organisation to create awareness among the tribal people about their rights. We organised several sessions in FATA and informed the people about their role, responsibilities and their rights. We asked participants to pass on the knowledge to other youth and they also played a commendable role in spreading this message.
TNN (from AamirAfridi): How did you pursue your plan of action?
Aamir Afridi: When I came to the university in 2007, I came to know about the plight of FATA people and the reality. When I saw the difference between the life of our people and the people in other parts of the country, I decided from thereon to work for rights of the FATA people. When former President Asif Ali Zardari initiated a process of reforms in FATA in 2011, we were very happy and were hoping that the plight of the tribal people will end. Although some reforms were introduced but those were not implemented.
When the FATA parliamentarians presented a bill for FATA reforms in the National Assembly, we took out a massive rally in its support in Landikotal and thousands of people joined us in that rally. However, it was very unfortunate that the government committee for reforms which conducted visits to different tribal agencies only met the privileged people. We were compelled to stage protest when the FATA Reforms Committee during its visit to Landikotal invited privileged people, Maliks and tribal elders for the meeting and ignored the youth.
To put it briefly, I just want to convey that we are also Pakistanis and we recognise its laws.We demand the right to access the Supreme Court and High Court. We want representation in the provincial assembly. We want our representatives to make legislations for us. We don’t want to play in the hands of bureaucracy anymore.
TNN (from Naz Mohmand): What is the main desire of tribal youth as far as reforms are concerned?
Naz Mohmand: I have one home in Mohmand Agency and the other in Peshawar. It’s the same for othersin FATA who have been displaced from their homes. So our main demand is merger with KP.
TNN (from Samreen Khan): What is your view on this point?
Samreen Khan: We want a system based on justice, not a FATA Council or any other such body. Article 247 of the Constitution and FCR must be abolished whether FATA is merged with KP or not. Even changes in the FCR and merger with KP won’t work for us if Article 247 remains in place. We want to be included in the national mainstream. We still have representatives in the National Assembly and Senate but they cannot do legislation independently. In this scenario, the local government representatives will also be ineffective. The rulers should now stop delaying the much awaited reforms in FATA. We are humans like other Pakistanis and we want similar laws in FATA that are in place in other parts of the country.
TNN (From Shaukat Khan): What is the main trend among the FATA youth about the reforms process?
Shaukat Aziz: Our young generation just wants the same rights enjoyed by the people of Punjab, Islamabad, KP and other parts of the country. We don’t want reforms on paper. We want our rights, whether we are merged with KP or an independent council is established. We made many sacrifices for Pakistan and we will continue to do so. We are determined to play active role in the country’s development.
This article has been taken from Radio TNN programme Badloon which discusses political activities and reforms process in FATA. Badloon provides a platform to the FATA people to record their opinion about the reforms process. The programme was prepared by TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Abdul Qayyum which was broadcast from six radio stations of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
TNN Correspondents: Nabi Jan Orakzai, SaleemurRehman, Ali Afzal, GoharWazir, Malik Azmat, Gul Muhammad, Shah Khalid and ShakirMehsud contributed to this article.