Revision of the status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is several decades overdue — and there appears to be little disagreement that changes are necessary indeed vital if the region is not to remain marginalised. As ever there are rocks in the road. Quite literally in the case of many parts of Fata which have few interlinking roads across the different agencies. In recent times there has been a move towards something approaching joined up thinking with the favoured solution being the merger of Fata with K-P — which is the only solution that makes any kind of economic and administrative sense but one which would retain significant input from local and tribal interests in order to maintain a balance. Even that solution would take a generation or more to work through — but here come the rocks in the road. The ruling party in K-P is the PTI and it is in favour of the merger proposals, but other parties are not and the entire process is effectively parked pending any other solution. Enter, common sense in hand, the army. General Bajwa has been visiting forward areas and while there said that the army would continue to bring Fata into the mainstream ‘as per tribal aspirations’. He thanked the civil administration for its support — but crucially said that the army would focus on stabilisation and socio-economic development.
Those with a longer memory will recall the part played by the army in the rehabilitation of the Swat valley after the expulsion of the Taliban as well as after the floods that followed. It was the army that organised the ‘shopping lists’ for the NGOs and international aid agencies wanting to do something useful. It was the army that provided the heavy equipment that saw the repair of water channels and other infrastructure. It was the army that provided the security for the myriad agencies putting things back together. Thus it is going to be in Fata. Politicians and the civil administration they head up again trail in the wake of the military, and once again the civilians manage to drag defeat from the jaws of victory.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2017.
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