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War-Torn Erstwhile FATA Continues To Face Govt’s Indifference

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In February, before the Covid-19 pandemic had started in Pakistan; 14 public departments had not spent a single penny in erstwhile FATA. While others only utilized 6.5% of funds from the annual development budget for the fiscal year 2019-20.

A total of Rs83 billion, including federal government’s Rs72 billion and KP government’s Rs11 billion, were allocated in the budget for the uplift of the merged districts. However, only Rs5.4 billion worth of development work was done until February. This is partially due to the lack of public offices in the tribal districts, which contradicts an earlier claim of the government. That it will quickly extend all its departments to merged districts.

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has been building a rhetoric that the second largest community by population i.e. Pashtuns are treated as third class citizens. Most of the demands of the PTM leader Manzoor Ahmed (also called Manzoor Pashtun by his followers out of hope and admiration for him), reflect genuine grievances of the people of the tribal areas. But in addition, he has on an occasion, while addressing his supporters, glorified the idea of a Pashtun separate state.

In this situation when an organized movement, which a few months back held a large public rally in Bannu, is building such a rhetoric, the state seems very cautious about PTM. They think the PTM is provoking the people of tribal districts against them. In any case, their genuine demands should be addressed by the state. And it must be ensured that the allocated money should be utilized to develop the tribal districts.

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In three to four years, basic facilities like health, education, policing and infrastructure can improve. An effective local body system is also important to solve every Union Council’s (UC) issues in that UC.

People in positions of power often fall in a delusion that they can use scare tactics against dissenters. However, our history tells that no person in power, has been able to permanently suppress any voice with even a shred of truth. Jails make those voices even stronger.

Arresting Manzoor Pashteen or other PTM leaders will not resolve the issue. Instead, such steps may actually strengthen the PTM’s support base.

We understand that due to the pandemic, developmental projects cannot be initiated. And that it takes time to extend government departments to an uncharted territory. But they did have seven months before the pandemic, but the funds were not spent on development in erstwhile FATA. This attitude from the government strengthens the PTM rhetoric.

PM Imran Khan talks about building a welfare state on Medina’s model. One of the basic principle of that state was compassion, which his government lack when it comes to tribal areas.

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