By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
War on terror initiated by the US in October 2001 is still continuing with no end in sight. In Afghanistan, the initiative is in the hands of the Taliban. The ISAF despite its massive superiority in men and material and in technology has become so vulnerable and fragile that it has decided to quit by end 2014. While ISAF under Gens McChrystal, Petraeus and Allen resorted to policy of brutal force against Afghan Pakhtuns to breakdown the resistance of freedom fighters, Pak Army under Gen Kayani after using force to capture the restive regions opted to win hearts and minds of tribal areas. He decided to take over the next phase of rehabilitation and building of war torn regions when he saw that civil administration was reluctant to come forward. The picturesque Swat town has regained its past glory in a very short time and in many ways gives a more modern look. Business and tourism are thriving, schools and colleges are functional and fruit orchards are bearing fruits. Bajaur has also been rebuilt to quite an extent.
Satisfied with Army’s performance in Swat and surrounding regions, Kayani has now diverted his attention towards South Waziristan (SW). Large number of people had left their homes in July-August 2009 in the wake of impending Operation Rah-e-Nijat and had taken refuge in makeshift camps in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan. Although the Mehsud dominated SW was cleared of the miscreants by December 2009, but the displaced persons terrorized by the militants were reluctant to return back. They were hesitant to take on security of their respective villages on self-help basis by organizing village defence force. Hakimullah Mehsud’s men had thoroughly terrorized the locals and they were not picking up heart to return and face them. They returned in small packets from mid 2011 only when the Army assured them that it would provide them security as well as help in rehabilitating them and in developing the region.
To start with, three major roads were built, one leading from Jandola-Srarogha to Makeen-Razmak, the other from Tanai-Wana to Angoor Adda, and the third one from Tank-Gomal to Wana. Network of roads is being laid to make the area serve as third transit link for trade with Afghanistan. Once the area was opened up, displaced persons were brought back from December 2010 onward and rehabilitated.
In addition to rebuilding destroyed houses, fifty new houses were built for the poor including 26 houses for the widows. Building material has been provided for self-help construction. Villages are developed on the concept of model village having basic facilities available at their doorstep. Kotkai, Chaghmalai, Sarwakai and Jandola have already been turned into model villages where market complexes have also been constructed. 112 shops have been handed over to the locals on a nominal rent of Rupees 20 per month to enable them to earn their livelihood. Ten poultry farms have so far been established in markets and many more are under construction. Locals are trained in this field. After letting them handle two flocks of birds free of cost, they are charged nominal amount in running the poultry farm independently. Schools, health centres, sports complex, recreational parks, public toilets, roadside driver hotels and mosques are found in most villages.
In addition, three goat farms, two cattle farms and one duck farm have also been established and handed over to villagers at Sararogha, Kotkai and Murghiband. Goat and cattle breeding have started in a big way. Honey-bee boxes have been distributed free of cost to the farmers. Bee-keeping and honey business taught to the locals has become very popular. Disrupted electricity is fast being restored and water channels revived. Agriculture is being boosted by providing wheat seeds, fertilizer and ploughing tools free of cost. Some fish ponds have also been made by providing hatchlings to the farmers.
Several water schemes were completed in record time to provide clean drinking water. For the women, cottage industry has been promoted. Healthcare units have also been established. In order to improve health facilities, hospitals at Jandola and Srarogha have been renovated and a mobile field hospital made operative under Army Medical Corps. Free medical camps are also in operation. To impart technical training to the youth, Institute of Technical Education at Chaghmalai was established in June 2011. Stream of trained auto electricians, auto mechanics electricians, drivers and computer operators are coming out of this institution after every four months training.
So far 23 schools have been reconstructed and three of them converted into model schools with sophisticated facilities including sports stadiums. Two cadet colleges at Wana and Spinkai Ragzai are functioning with facilities as good, if not better than other recognized cadet colleges in the country. Gen Kayani on his visit to that area on 18 June did the ground breaking ceremony of the Road Tank-Gomal-Wana, and also inaugurated Spinkai Cadet College. One has to visit this war torn area and see for himself the revolutionary change that has come and the enthusiasm with which the locals are taking part in day to day activities.
Seven ‘Women Skills Development Centres’ have been planned to impart training of sewing, knitting, and handicrafts. Widows have been provided with sewing machines, hens and goats for their sustenance. In order to de-radicalize and rehabilitate the misled youth, particularly those involved in minor crimes a special therapy program has been launched in Tank. Similar efforts are needed in North Waziristan where the security situation is so far not conducive to undertake development works. If the US had fulfilled its promise of ROZs, extremism and terrorism would have got curtailed by now.
What is needed is awareness drive through well organized media and publicity campaign to remove misperceptions about the Army and what all it is doing to improve the quality of life of people of tribal areas. The perverse role of foreign powers in creating misgivings and hatred and instigating the tribes to fight the state forces rather than defending the western border should be highlighted. In addition, intelligence network should be expanded and modernized to not only prevent foreign interference but also to keep an eye on spies and anti-state elements on the payroll of foreign agencies. Paramilitary forces which have gone through the mill are now better trained and equipped to deal with counter terror duties. These second line forces should be further strengthened to be able to take on frontline duties independently so that the Army could be relieved and reverted to its primary duties. Idea of creating a separate counter terror force seems to have been shelved. This needs to be activated since the problem of terrorism will persist at least till the departure of US troops in 2024.
It is high time that FATA which is rich in natural resources and has an extremely hardworking workforce should be declared as an independent province and named as Qabailistan. This will help in removing its sense of deprivation and bringing it in the mainstream. Political power, job opportunities and education will certainly help in curbing extremism and feelings of neglect. Besides its own political legislature, administrative and judicial set ups, it should have its own Regimental Centre, Qabaili Army units and Qabail Corps under IGQC. This will be very much in line with the ongoing trend of creating more provinces. Or else, FATA should be made part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but the Governor should be from FATA and KP in rotation.