FATA has attained great significance in the eyes of the West. It has become a focal point for them in their handling of affairs in the war on terror in that region. They have appointed Special Envoys to keep an eye on the developments in that area and also to find ways and means for possible solutions of the problem.
They visit the region regularly and fully understand the area and its people. The only group of people that is not aware of that area are our own leaders. They do not bother to visit the area or meet with the locals to keep themselves abreast of developments and living conditions of people of that region.
However, when it comes to conducting negotiations with leaders in the West they do not falter, even slightly, to bestow that right on themselves. They consider it their birth right to represent FATA without involvement or proper knowledge of the people of that area.
These so-called leaders have extensive knowledge of real estate in towns and cities of the West and prestigious places where flats and villas should be bought, but what they know nothing about is the tribal areas in their own country. How can they represent FATA when they do not know the area or the tribes living there? How can they gauge the impact on FATA of development in Afghanistan, or vice versa, without interacting with the people there?
One has witnessed many shortcomings of our leaders but narration of one incident will suffice befitting the situation.
A federal minister asked the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) for a briefing about the situation in South Waziristan. The governor conducted a detailed hour-long briefing, thinking that he had made the minister wise enough to conduct a meaningful dialogue, but upon concluding was shocked to hear the very intelligent minister ask: “Is South Waziristan in Wana?”
Visualising the kind of negotiations the minister would soon conduct abroad the governor almost fainted and sent for a glass of water to steady his nerves. After a briefing lasting well over an hour, the worthy minister did not know that Wana was the capital city of South Waziristan. This is to say nothing of his knowledge of the tribes living there.
And he was flying out to represent the area in talks with the leaders in Washington!This trend needs to be arrested, and arrested immediately. The people in FATA need to be given their due right to represent the area. They would handle matters much better than the so-called leaders.
The frustration of the local people is ringing alarm bells, but is there anyone present to hear them?FATA is in the eye of the storm but our government still wants to hide the area from the outside world. Our media has neither been fair nor given a free hand to cover events independently, like they do in other parts of the country.
A funeral in Karachi is given live coverage for hours in double digits, but carnage in FATA is just briefly in breaking news or sometimes only in the tickertape running underneath the news.
There is nobody to speak for FATA, and those who want to speak are not being listened to. The developmental mantra of the government is nothing but a farce. The security situation has not improved one bit, despite repeated operations. The writ changes hands during day and night. The common man is in the crossfire, not the one who made millions in the line of fire.
Guns and drones do not make friends. They only make enemies.The proxies from Islamabad/Rawalpindi administering FATA will neither develop the area, nor resolve the problems that the people are faced with.
This long experiment of administering the area through proxies is enough proof that FATA cannot be developed and mainstreamed if left to outsiders only. Participation of the tribesmen is the need of the hour. They can do magic if allowed to govern themselves like their brothers in other provinces of the country.
Why is this right being denied to them?
The writer is a former ambassador hailing from FATA. Email: waziruk@hotmail. com
This article was originally published in The News on 24th Jan, 2011.