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The Rich Resources Mountains of Ex-FATA

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The USSR invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the US-led War on Terror against terrorists in Afghanistan in 2001 were terrible events for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which are now a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. After the 9/11 attack, North Waziristan emerged as the most hazardous region and the epicenter of international terrorism. To investigate the rise of Talibanization in District North Waziristan and its effects on the indigenous way of life and faith.

The war on terror has a history of twenty years where the lives of tribal people were socially, politically, and economically marginalized. The region (Ex-FATA) was politically nonconductor to demand their basic human rights in the systematic violence against the tribal people. Multiple military operations were declared against the terrorist organization, and locals sacrificed themselves to leave their homeland for sustainable peace. The partial displacement of tribal people in the settled districts of Pakistan is a question mark for regional and foreign policy. For example, during the conflict, tribal families were conscious of human development. The access to the internet became a tool to communicate with other communities within and outside of a country.

Ex-FATA is composed of seven districts, and each district is special for its diverse natural resources. For example, the mountains of Bajaur are famous for Granite, Chromite, and manganese; district Mohmand has copper, marble, and quartz; district Khyber contains coal, fuel minerals, and limestone; district Orakzai has laterite, construction minerals, and cement; the Mahamad Khel mountains of district North Waziristan are famous for copper, chromite, and manganese; and district South Waziristan has copper, limestone, and malachite.

The seven tribal districts of KP, the former federal areas, have some of the world’s most concerning development statistics. Maternal mortality is 395 per 100,000 births, more than twice the national average, and infant mortality is 86 per 1,000 live births, significantly higher than in most other countries. Out of a population of five million people, about half a million youngsters are still not in school. The literacy rate is 33 percent, compared to 59 percent for the rest of Pakistan, while female literacy is 12 percent, compared to 47 percent for the rest of Pakistan. Currently, 46 percent of people have access to drinking water, whereas the rest of Pakistan has accomplished it for 91 percent of the population.

The 25th Amendment included Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s seven tribal districts. It allowed tribal regions to get development and public services on par with the rest of the nation. However, the aim of this amendment remains unfulfilled. While the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration, a resource-poor province, tries to integrate into the tribal territory, the NFC funding allocations have not materialized. Allowing Fata to remain separate and unequal for decades was a national blunder. If the federation does not come together to pay for the tools necessary to enable the Merged Areas to catch up in development, the country will repeat the mistakes it hoped to avoid with the 25th Amendment.

It is an unparalleled opportunity for Pakistan’s decision-makers to do the right thing for national growth. When East Germany merged with West Germany in 1990, it was impoverished, lagging in growth, and had failing public infrastructure. Prioritizing nation-building above short-term improvements in consumption, Germany committed 0.5 percent of GDP per year to develop the eastern regions and achieving full economic and social integration. Is it possible for Pakistan to make a similar national decision? This is a pressing issue ahead of the 10th NFC. We should not pair a watershed constitutional revision with a financing drought.

If there is a lack of funding and underfinancing for the Merged Areas, institution-building and service delivery initiatives, key components of regional development, would be hampered rather than eliminated. While the merger promised to expedite growth and alter the Merged Areas’ socioeconomic situations, it is vital to repeat the union’s initial goal and translate it via the NFC mechanism. Like the rest of the country, residents in the Merged Areas have a legitimate share of national resources. The Merged regions have less than 2% of the urban population, limited access to basic municipal services, and little revenue-raising capacity, and hence compare unfavorably with Pakistan’s developed regions, where huge cities may produce their own funds. Transfers under the NFC method will be one of the key financial sources for developing the Merged Areas in the medium future.

The Merged Areas are a fresh addition of people and territory, responsibilities and development requirements, ambitions, and national goals allocated to the administration of KP, one of the four provinces. This implies that the area must be considered a distinct entity inside the NFC process for financial resources to be channeled toward development and monitoring projects. This is a one-of-a-kind and difficult circumstance. This national development objective is addressed via the NFC system. Now, not later, is the time to handle Merged area finance under the NFC and finish the 25th Amendment. Pakistan rose to the occasion with the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, and it must now do the same with the NFC.

Taufail Dawar
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