By Said Rasool Betani

PESHAWAR, 11 October: The youth and women rights activist in FATA, Mehreen Afridi has won National Youth Award in 2013 and her name has also been nominated for a number of national and international awards. She has been on the forefront for raising voice for the rights of FATA youth, especially the rights of women. TNN  has conducted detailed discussion with Mehreen about her efforts and achievements.

TNN: How did the idea of serving the FATA youth come to your mind?

Mehreen: I felt great pain over the plight of the people of tribal areas when I compared their lifestyle with the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other developed areas like Islamabad etc. I wondered why our tribal people had been deprived from basic facilities of life and why they are forced to live under poverty and other so many problems. No investment had been made on the FATA youth by the federal government despite the fact that the tribal people are extremely patriotic and had offered many sacrifices for the country. Law and order situation in in FATA cannot be improved without improving the local economy and providing best environment to the local population. The FATA people are also facing the British-era black law of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) under which they had been deprived of their basic rights. Due to all these factors, I established the FATA Youth Forum to raise voice for tribal youth at all forums.

TNN: Are you satisfied with the political role of the FATA women?

Mehreen: How can the FATA women raise voice for their rights when even basic facilities like healthcare, schools and roads are unavailable in the region? The FATA women will be able to effectively raise voice for their rights if they get representation in the Parliament on reserve seats. If women from rest of Pakistan can get representation in the National Assembly and four provincial on reserved seats, then why this privilege has not been given to the tribal women. She also called upon the government to establish a commission on status of women in FATA on the pattern of similar commissions being earlier established on the national and provincial levels.

TNN: Do you support the bill tabled in the National Assembly for reforms in tribal areas?

Mehreen: We have not seen full independence since creation of Pakistan as we are still leading our lives under the FCR law which was enacted in 1901. I highly appreciate the reforms process in FATA. However, the process is very slow, which needs to be expedited. Reforms were also introduced in FCR in 2011 by  then PPP government but that could not be implemented. People will not benefit from any reforms until they are implemented on grassroots level.

TNN: To what extent your family supports you in your endeavours?

Mehreen: I enjoyed strong support from my family throughout my life. No woman can succeed in her mission unless she has support from her family. My father not only supported me, but also gave me valuable advice while carrying out my activities for rights of women.

TNN: What improvement can be brought in the status of women education in FATA?

Mehreen: The education system of tribal areas has collapsed virtually and the situation is very disappointing. Women education in FATA is of great concern to us as the earlier ratio of 3 percent women education has dropped further. Promotion of education is very important for sustainable peace and development. A lot of work is required to promote women education in FATA.


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