TNN corespondent Shah Nawaz interviewing a resident of Bara about the possible implementation of proposed 10 years FATA development program. Photo by TNN.

The government’s FATA Reforms Committee proposed a 10-year development programme for the tribal areas in its report. The purpose of the development programme was to give relief to militancy affected people, mitigate their sufferings and improve their standard of living at par of other citizens of the country.

Although no final decision has been taken about FATA reforms, yet a commission has been formed to implement the proposed 10-year development programme. The commission held its maiden meeting on 27 December 2017.

Like the reforms proposals, the proposed development programme is also receiving mixed reaction from political and tribal leadership and it seems difficult to develop consensus on the matter anytime soon. But it is encouraging that no one is opposing the development programme, and differences are only on its implementation.

Ibrahim Shinwari, a tribal journalist, welcomes the development programme, but says it will be better to implement the reforms package first.

“The 10-year uplift programme is linked to FATA reforms, therefore, we want initiation of reforms. Development process must begin soon no matter what mode of reforms is implemented in the tribal areas. The process may not complete in 10 years, but it is hoped that the promised uplift schemes in FATA by the government will be completed,” he told TNN.

Ibrahim Shinwari says “The government should provide healthcare, education and communication facilities to FATA people and create job opportunities for the youth,” he said.

Political expert from Kurram Agency Dr Naureen Naseer says currently we are witnessing a tug-of-war between the federal and provincial governments over utilisation of development funds of FATA. “I believe that the 100 billion rupees fund is the main hurdle in the swift implementation of FATA reforms. Transparent allocation of funds will bring visible development in the region. If development occurred only on paper, then it will be a disappointing scenario for the FATA people. FATA also has its own resources and its people need equal opportunities and rights for proper utilisation of these resources,” she told TNN.

FATA Political Alliance president and Jamaat-e-Islami FATA ameer Sardar Khan believes that merger of FATA with KP is the easiest and viable option for a better administrative system and ensuring check and balance on development projects.

“Everything is available in the Constitution and law once FATA becomes part of KP and local bodies polls are held there. In the presence of FATA Secretariat one cannot even think of transparent utilisation of development funds in the tribal areas,” he said.

Murad Saqi, central secretary general of Khyber Union, a local political group, also considers local bodies elections vital for development in FATA. “Uplift projects should be carried out through the elected local bodies representatives. The natural resources of FATA should be utilised and dams should be established here which will not only benefit the FATA region, but the whole country. A Motorway should also be constructed from Waziristan to Bajaur. The promise of establishment of five universities in FATA should also be fulfilled and all projects should be completed expeditiously,” he told TNN.

Fareed from Shewa area of North Waziristan says: “The people of tribal areas suffered a lot in the war against terrorism. Priority should be given to health, education and road projects here. Routine life activities should be restored in our region.”

Ikramuddin from Ali Sherzai tribe of Central Kurram Agency says: “The duration of the 10-year plan should be extended to 30 years. I am making this demand because we even don’t have primary schools here. People from the rest of the country are talking about Metro Bus and Motorway projects, while we are making pathways with our own shovels.”

Muhammad Jamal from Sarwakai tehsil of South Waziristan says: “We appreciate the proposal of development programme in the tribal areas. We are very happy over it and want a monitoring desk to oversee the process.”

Samiullah from Orakzai Agency says: “The deserted bazaars of FATA should be brought back to life, while work should also be carried out on electricity, water supply, roads and schools projects.”

Muhammad Saeed from Khyber Agency says: “First of all we need people to explore mineral resources in our region and then dams and roads must be constructed with its income. Job opportunities should be provided to the tribal youth.”

Malik Sultan from Mohmand Agency says he also supports completion of rehabilitation work in FATA. “The displaced people should return to their homes and reconstruction should also be carried out side by side. The issue of merger or no merger should be decided after that. The tribal people should first get rights like other citizens of the country and then they must also enjoy the fruits of reforms,” he told TNN.

This article has been taken from TNN programme Badloon which highlights political activities and reforms process in FATA. TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Salman Ahmed produced this programme which was broadcast from five radio stations of FATA and KP.

TNN correspondents: Shah Khalid, Gul Muhammad Mohmand, Shah Nawaz Khan Afridi, Malik Azmat, Ali Afzal, Hikmat Shah, Nabi Jan Orakzai and Rizwan Mehsud contributed to this article.