Empowering Youth is inevitable for sustainable peace in FATA

As a result of the militants’ insurgency and the subsequent efforts by the government to restore peace in the once troubled tribal agencies, thousands of families were forced to migrate to safer places. The displacement itself was a testing process for the tribal people yet it brought a number of other miseries to the lives of the poor tribesmen. Among others, it was a terrible experience for the youth as it completely shattered their future. Their education was badly affected. Many were rendered jobless. Sports activities were almost diminished. The overall social life of the tribal youth was reduced to makeshift camps.

According to the statistics provided by the Fata Secretariat, the total population of the tribal areas is about 4.7 million. Among them, 8,02,535 (about 17%) are youth between 15 to 24 years of age. As peace is being restored all over the tribal belt, majority of the displaced tribesmen have returned to their areas. The government has also started an overall rehabilitation process in Fata. A good number of youth in South and North Waziristan agencies have been able to get jobs in non-governmental organizations. Yet a large number of youngsters are disappointed over discontinuation of their education and the impact of their displacement on their social life.

Like many other youngsters, Shan Zeb, a fourth year student had been dreaming of a bright future before the mass exodus of tribesmen from Miran Shah subdivision of North Waziristan. But like thousands of other tribal students, Zeb too, had to discontinue education. Soon he realized that he had to feed his family because all he had, were left behind in Waziristan. Zeb set up a tea stall in Bannu bazaar. “I had dreamt of high education but the displacement shattered all my dreams,” Zeb recalls while talking to TNN. He said his poor financial position and the state of helplessness as IDP forced him to stop education and start earning livelihood.


Usman, another youngster from the North Waziristan says in the beginning, the government had promised to provide jobs to the displaced youth but later the pledges were not materialized. “The Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region (Safron) had promised that 80 percent of the tribal youth would be given employment but still large number of young men are unemployed and jobless,” says Usman.

However, Muhammad Ishaq from the South Waziristan agency says large number of tribal youth have been given employment in non-governmental organizations. “Playgrounds have been established. Roads have been built. Local tribal people have been employed in different organizations,” said Ishaq.

Zahoor Dawar, who hails from the North Waziristan agency says lack of transportation and communication facilities are hampering the pace of development.”Yes, playgrounds have been built; centers for vocational training are  established; curricular and co-curricular activities have started, yet people face lots of problems in utilizing these facilities due to lack of roads and communication facilities,” Dawar remarked.


Many agree to the point that the dislocation of the tribesman has affected their earlier social lives. In order to cater to the needs of the younger generation, government has started a number of initiatives. According to the political agent of the North Waziristan agency Kamran Afridi, a number of vocation training centers had been established to provide training to the youngsters in different trades so that they could earn livelihood for their families. A similar vocational training center has been established in Tiarzah subdivision of South Waziristan for female. The center has imparted vocational training to about 260 tribal girls during the past two month.

Educational activities in Mohmand and Bajaur agencies have almost restored. Besides, approval has also been given for the establishment of a cultural center for youth in Bajaur Agency. Shahid ur Rahman, a youngster from the Bajaur agency says that educational activities have gained a lot of momentum in the recent past particularly after the return of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). “The postgraduate college in Bajaur had only one bus in past, now it has four buses. The strength of students has also increased manifolds,” he adds.

Unemployment is a big issue in FATA. Muhammad Younas from Bajaur agency says majority of the youngsters work as daily wagers in local markets. “The young people neither have jobs in government sector nor in the non-government sector. They are adopting indigenous professions to earn livelihood for their families,” said Younas. Sabirullah, a native of Mohmand agency says the government should plan programs in which the local youth are engaged for the development of their respective areas.


Fazal-e-Akbar Khaliji, who heads the Sports and Youth Affair Department in Bajaur agency said they had been working for the promotion of sports and cultural activities and creating job opportunities for the youth. “We have been strictly directed to give priority to locals while hiring candidates for different positions so that their socio-economic life can change positively. Besides, a number of programs launched for the welfare and development of youth are under progress,” Khaliji said.

Government has established two playgrounds – one in Khar area of Bajuar agency and the other in Ghalanai, Mohmand agency for the local youth yet they have been demanding the construction of more such facilities. “We love to play games but unfortunately there are no playgrounds in our area where we can play games. Usually, the boys play in fields or in rivulet. Whenever there is a flood, the play areas are washed away,” a tribal boy said.  Another college student said first they used to play cricket but now they did not pay attention to sports due to non availability of playing areas. “Soon, we will start work on the construction of a cultural center in the sports stadium in Khar,” Khaliji said.


“The cultural center will be open for all the artists. The local artists will perform and exhibit their talent. Besides, the center will also be used for holding different cultural events,” claimed Fazal-e-Akbar Khaliji

The youth of the Khyber agency complain that they were never provided any opportunity where they could highlight or groom their hidden talents. “The government or the local administration has never arranged any such events where youth are given an opportunity to express themselves. Lots of talent of the tribal youth has been wasted due to the inactiveness of the relevant authorities,” said Sajid Khan, who works in an auto workshop in Jamrud bazaar. The 16-year old Sajid says he used to go to school a few years ago when there was normalcy in Bara subdivision. “Our school was closed down due to militancy and our family migrated to Jamrud. I quit school and my father asked me to work in the workshop. I still want to rejoin school but my father is not in favor of this. He says I can’t study. That is why I am working here,” Sajid reveals. He still wants to resume education but his financial status is not allowing him to do so.”Whenever I see other boys going to school and playing cricket, I wish I could do the same but it is only a wish as I cannot afford to leave this job and resume schooling,” he says. “If someone supports my school I will leave the workshop,” he announces. When asked about his working hours, Sajid replied he came to work at 7:00 am and returned home late in the evening.


The high ratio of unemployment has also worried the youth of Khyber Agency. A resident of Bara Abdur Razaq, who resides with friends in a hostel in Peshawar, says despite having higher degrees, he failed to get a job.”After obtaining a bronze medal in Doctor of Pharmacy, I applied for a number of jobs. I cleared the written tests but when I appeared in interviews, they rejected my applications,” he said. “Whenever a person gets a reputed job on the basis of his education, it inspires more than 500 parents and they urge their children to get education and become a doctor, engineer or a government officer,” he explains. “But when a person completes education and even then fails to find a suitable job, it discourages 500 parents to send their kids to school because they think it will be mere wastage of time and it won’t benefit them in anyway,” he maintains.

A major problem which the students of Khyber agency have been facing is the availability of seats in educational institutions of Peshawar, Sadiq Afridi, another dweller of Bara said and added the students of Khyber agency are denied admission in the colleges of Peshawar as they are being treated as non-locals. “Since the second shift in colleges in Khyber agency has been stopped, large number of students have stopped their studies,” Khan said. He also demanded establishment of vocational training institutes in Khyber agency for the local youth to help them earn livelihood for their families. Besides, he suggested that the government should announce interest-free loans for the tribal youth so that they could start their own businesses on micro levels.


The situation in Kurram and Orakzai Tribal Agencies are different from other districts of FATA. The youth in both the tribal agencies who have recently returned to their homes, say they are fond of sports but unfortunately they could not fulfill their ambitions due to lack of playgrounds. “Since our return to the area, there had been no sports events. Football and cricket are very popular among the local boys. The government should establish sports grounds for the local youth. Besides, it should also work for the promotion of traditional games such as kabadi, archery etc,” says a tribal boy while talking to TNN’s correspondent in Orakzai agency. Saleem Khan, a tribesman from Orakzai says they are still living in a state of deprivation. “We have neither the facilities of health and education nor we have the luxury of having playgrounds,” he complains.


Both the agencies have lots of natural beauty. The local youth say if these areas are developed and promoted, the hotelling and tourism industries will flourish and the local people will be able to exploit the opportunities of establishing their businesses. “If the government develops and promotes these areas, people will forget about Swat, Murree and Abbotabad as these areas are more scenic and beautiful. There are mountains’ peaks, streams of gushing water and scenic valleys, said Saleem Khan. One thing which is encouraging is that the local people have maintained their culture and tradition. “We have kept alive our traditions. We participate in each others’ marriages, funerals and other social events. Besides, the local people have started taking interest in political activities as well,” said Khalil Hazrat from Kurram tribal agency. Habib from Kurram points out that since the area is economically backward, majority of the people go to other countries for jobs and employments. “There are no industrial units in the agency. Also, the local market is not too big to accommodate all the youth. The agriculture and livestock sectors are also unproductive. The only option available with the tribal youth is to go abroad particularly to the Gulf states in search of jobs,” Habib maintains.


“Normally, a person obtains his national identity card, he applies for a visa and go to one of the Gulf states. He works and feed the entire family while the rest of the family members rely on him. The one who earns money usually sacrifices his life,” he explains and adds “If the government pays attention to the plight of the youth and try to resolve their problems, they will be able to play their role in the nation building.

An official of the Fata Development Authority (FDA) Ambareen claims during an interview with TNN that the government has started a number of projects for the welfare of younger generations including creating job opportunities and impart vocational trainings to them. “The tribal youth is very talented. It is unfortunate that their abilities were not used properly,” said Ambareen, who works as a project manager. “Since there is almost no industry in Fata where the tribal youth can find jobs, unemployment in the tribal belt is very high. It is indeed very tough to find a job in Fata,” she admitted. Ambareen suggested that the youth should keep themselves updated about creation of job vacancies in Fata. They should regularly visit the official website of the Fata secretariat https://fata.gov.pk/


She said as per the government’s policy, priority is being given to the people of Fata in hiring individuals on different vacancies. Updating about the state of education in Fata, she said there are 13 higher education institutions in Fata. “Every agency has two or more educational institutions. There are colleges of technical education and management sciences. The technical colleges offer diplomas in Electrical, Civil and Mining technologies. Besides, there are lots of marble units in Fata and that is why the Mining technology has been introduced in the colleges,” she maintains. “The colleges offer three-year diploma courses. Apart from these, short courses of six months and one year are also offered which are usually started with the financial assistance of donor organizations. Students enrolled in the short courses are also offered monthly stipend,” she informs.

She said that the FDA would be launching another program with the financial assistance of UNDP and those want to enroll in the program must approach the authority. Besides, institutes of technical and vocational education are also being built in Fata which will offer diploma courses. The construction of a female technical education institute is already under process in Bajaur. Apart from this, two vocational training centers for women are also being built in Miranshah and Orakzai agency. The construction of these centers will be completed in next few months. We will also arrange a ‘hunar mela’, an art festival where we will invite tribal students to set up their stalls for showcasing their talents. We have also invited donors and industrialists to the festival who will help the tribal students in finding suitable jobs for them.


This article has been translated from the TNN programme “Da Manzal Pah Lor”, which discusses about FATA TDPs or repatriated peoples’ rehabilitation, development and the concern. The programme was produced by TNN producers “Shan Muhammad” and “Abdul Qayum Afridi”.