Developing FATA must be a top priority

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To say that FATA still suffers under the anachronistic legal arrangements of the colonial days would be stating the obvious. Even though the region is both legally and formally a part of Pakistan, it has not yet received its due attention in areas of administration, political autonomy, and the judicio-legal framework. A recent report on the region also brought to light one of the biggest arms black markets in the area surviving — if on a relatively smaller scale — despite improved security and tighter protocols. Darra Adam Khel is the town “where Kalashnikovs welded from scrap metal are cheaper than smartphones and sold on an industrial scale.” Gunsmiths of this northwestern town have long been acclaimed for the finesse of their replicas by gun aficionados both here and abroad. However, whether this generations-old trade should be allowed to develop in a country that already struggles against risks of militancy or be defunct altogether is a debate that should only be uni-lateral. Nevertheless, the report also discussed another overlooked crisis, whose solution is long overdue and direly needed: development of Pakistani tribesmen.
Despite several much-touted attempts by administration — civilian and military — to mainstream the quasi-colony into the modern era, not much has been achieved yet. FATA continues to suffer from neglect of the state, which appears to be in no mood to develop either its economy or its people. The militancy that ravaged the region for a decade demolished its already shambolic education sector, leaving the new generation to suffer. Although the present administration has announced its plans to reconstruct more than 1,500 destroyed schools to facilitate students, they cannot make up for their lost years. Furthermore, the region still does not have any university or medical college to cater to its student body. Amidst such dire circumstances, the overwhelming student dropout rate of 73 percent in FATA, as well as its meagre 17 percent literacy rate, should not surprise the authorities. Both the federal and provincial government should have strived for achieving developmental goals in the region so that it contributed towards Pakistan’s progress.