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Govt Must Engage With Tribal Areas’ Youth To Undo Flawed Policies Of The Past

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Democracy is a form of government which allows peaceful protest and other means of nonviolent struggles to protect fundamental human rights enshrined in the county’s constitution. Peaceful protests by the citizens of a country in various forms and freedom of expression to inform the state authorities about the issues and challenges faced by a community is meant to strengthen political processes and people’s faith in the constitution and rule of law.

We have recently witnessed a great number of peaceful demonstrations by the youth of erstwhile tribal areas of Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands choose to protests in almost all major cities of Pakistan to raise their voice for their fundamental rights. These protests ushered in a new era of enlightenment for the tribal youth. They choose to use their democratic right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression instead of resorting to violence. It shows that today tribal youth is politically informed and have faith in the democratic process and justice system of the country.

Before this, there was no culture of protest and demonstration in the tribal areas. This should be taken is a good omen by the state authorities. The protesting youth should not be dismissed as ‘foreign agents’.

The tribal youth has seen several events of violence growing up. Pashtuns in the sub-continent have had peaceful national movements spearheaded by their phenomenal leaders like Bacha Khan, Khan Shaheed and many others who were the champions and believers of achieving civil and political rights through peaceful means of politics and nonviolence.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan partnered itself with the USA and Saudi Arabia to fight Russian forces in Afghanistan. That project to be implemented successfully, for Pakistan there could be no better place than its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and no better foot soldiers than the tribal youth who could be easily lured towards the jihad. They say: state is like a mother. And Pakistani state chose to use the tribal youth like a fodder in Afghanistan. The government has since focused more on the securitisation of that region rather than educating and mainstreaming the tribal youth. That policy backfired when Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) seized the opportunity and provided a platform to the already armed and radicalised youth and challenged writ of the government. Pakistani authorities have yet to finish the remnants of the TTP.

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Thus today, a young man in his twenties from tribal areas has seen almost twenty years of conflict, war, destruction, displacement and stereotyping. This has brought great miseries, poverty and loss of precious lives. A tribal young man has witnessed all of this. He has seen himself the prime victim of these disastrous policies and terror-related conflicts. He developed extreme grievances against the state and raised his voice for his right to life, education and a respectable future in Pakistan. The indigenous youth came out on the roads to peacefully demand their rights guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan. They use different social media platforms to tell their fellow citizen about their miseries and deprivation. This has alerted the state agencies who termed the protests anti state movements sponsored by the enemy state agencies. However, this is not the case. The youth is indigenous, the problems are genuine and peaceful protest to demand rights is constitutional.

The youth of tribal areas waited more than a decade for the Pakistani policymakers to rectify their wrongs and politically mainstream the tribal region. Then finally the youth decided to launch protests throughout the province against the injustice meted out to them by the state itself. These protestors stood for life, carried no guns but ideas for a peaceful future. This phenomenal event in the history of tribal areas should be taken as enlightenment and strengthening of the peoples’ beliefs in the justice system of the country.

Such non-violent protests choose life over death, peace over war, education and tolerance over militancy and extremism. If properly handled by the government, the same youth could be a great stakeholder in the tribal areas development, restoration of peace and prosperity of the tribal areas of Pakistan.

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Naya Daur