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"I've been to Waziristan. I can see how tough that terrain is. It's ruled by a handful of tribes", said Senator John S. McCain in a recent presidential debate referring to Waziristan "agency" in Pakistan's FATA region.

Often described in the world media as "lawless" and "a terrorists sanctuary", Pakistan's FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) region, particularly Waziristan, has been the topic of news, discussions and presidential debates in the United State this year. There are reports that President Bush has authorized US special ops covert strikes inside FATA. US presidential candidate Barack Obama has openly advocated US ground troops incursions and air strikes in FATA. While many Americans, including several prominent politicians and candidates for high offices, have heard about FATA, their knowledge appears to be very sketchy and completely inadequate for making potentially dangerous policy toward Pakistan. Even the "experts" and Washington think tanks do not fully understand or appreciate the consequences of FATA incursions by the US military. So what is FATA? What is its history? Who lives there? How is it governed or not governed? Can it turn into another Vietnam for the US troops? Let's try and discuss answers to these important questions.

What is FATA?

FATA is Pakistan's federally administrated tribal area. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the west with the border marked by the Durand Line, the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab to the east, and Balochistan to the south. It is considered Pakistan's "wild west" where the inhabitants have always loved their guns and their freedom. The region, with its gun-loving culture, fierce independence and religious zealotry, was instrumental in Afghan Mujahedeen's successful resistance against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the region contributed to the defeat and eventual fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. It became home to millions of Afghan refugees in the 1980s, many of whom grew up there. The region's seminaries (also called madrassahs) are believed to have given birth to the Taliban (literally meaning "students") who ruled Afghanistan until the US invasion of 2001.

The total population of the FATA is estimated at 3m Pashto-speaking people (Pashtoons or Pathans), or roughly 2% of Pakistan's population. The people of the region share common language, culture and tribal traditions with their kin across the border in Afghanistan. Region's inhabitants' tribal ties are stronger than their national identities. In many cases, the Pakistan-Afghan border (called the Durand line, drawn by the British colonial officials) divides the tribes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Only 3.1% of the population resides in established townships. It is the most rural administrative unit in Pakistan.

FATA consists of seven "agencies", each nominally managed by Pakistan government's "political agents". The agencies are named Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orakzai, North and South areas of Waziristan and six FRs (Frontier Regions) namely FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Tank, FR Banuu, FR Lakki and FR Dera Ismail Khan. The main towns include Miranshah, Razmak, Bajaur, Darra Bazzar, Ghalanai as Head Quareters of Mohmand Agency and Wana .

FATA Governance Model:

FATA is constitutionally part of Pakistan, but the Pakistani constitution says that the country's laws do not apply there- unless the president of Pakistan specifically decrees otherwise in certain circumstances. The tribes rule by the age-old jirga system that makes rules and dispenses justice. This governance model was developed by the British colonial government based on treaties with the Pushtoon tribes, and continued unchanged after Pakistan's independence. It relies on Political Agents (PAs), appointed by the governor of NWFP (North West Frontier Province) on behalf of Pakistan's president. The PAs are the highest officials of the state of Pakistan in tribal agencies. They do not directly rule or administer, but they work with the tribal chiefs (maliks) using carrots and sticks to influence the tribes' behavior. The PAs provide money, infrastructure support and other incentives to the maliks in exchange for cooperation. When such cooperation is not forthcoming, the PAs withhold funds, levy fines and, in rare circumstances, threaten the use of military force to bring them in line. The bottom line is that the system relies on the PAs cooperation with the maliks. Without it, the governance model falls apart. After repeatedly trying and failing to establish control, this system was codified by the British in Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) in 1901 and remains in force today. Like the colonial Britsh rulers of the past, no government in Pakistan has managed to take full control of FATA since the country's independence in 1947.

The American "Jihad" and FATA governance:

The joint American-Pakistani-Saudi inspired "Jihad" against the Soviet Union in the 1980s has fundamentally altered the power structure and governance in FATA. During this period, two new groups emerged to subvert the the traditional model: Military commanders and Mullahs. The military commanders who led the fight against the Soviets became increasingly powerful and influential because of their leadership abilities and competence as fighters and organizers. The mullahs, who were marginalized and ridiculed before the "Jihad", rose in status and influence because of the religious inspiration they provided for "Jihad". The power of the commanders and the mullahs was also bolstered by the large amount of funding from US, Saudi and Pakistani sources that they received and controlled in this period. The PAs and the maliks are no longer unchallenged as the de facto power brokers in FATA. The power is now more diffused.

Historically, the army only entered FATA at the invitation of the tribal leaders. More recently, however, the traditional tribal power structure has suffered powerful blows as the Pakistani military forcibly entered the tribal areas upon the urging of the Americans. These operations by Pakistani military have had very limited success at the cost of more than two thousand Pakistani soldiers' lives. The FATA tribesmen, familiar with the difficult terrain (rough and barren jagged hills, deep valleys, thousands of caves and mazes of tunnels) and having been well trained and equipped by the US and Pakistani special ops in the 1980s, have demonstrated their upper hand repeatedly in many encounters with Pakistani and US military along the Pakistan-Afghan border. According to various investigators and the press, most of the "militant" casualties claimed by US and Pakistani militaries have turned out to be non-combatants, often women and children, further fueling the anger and resentment of the locals.

US and Pakistani Options:

Clearly, the situation in FATA and Afghanistan must be dealt with to stop the Talibanization of the entire region with all its terrible consequences for the world. But the available options are not good. The use of raw, naked military power will not work. Turning this into a war between the US and Pakistan will only help Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Though long-term and difficult, the only viable and durable option for US and Pakistan is to try and restore the traditional role of the PAs and the maliks by strengthening their power and authority over their respective regions. This option will require a combination of lots of carrots and a few big sticks, with tremendous patience to achieve a lasting solution to one of the most difficult problems in the world. The FATA problems have developed in over two decades as unintended consequence of US-Pak-Saudi intervention in the Afghan "Jihad" of the 1980s. Quick and dirty solutions relying on powerful military force alone will quickly make the situation a lot worse than it is now.

Full-Scale US-Pakistan War:

Initially brief missions by US commandos in FATA will turn into a full-scale US invasion and war with Pakistan, leading to the US getting bogged down in a situation worse than Vietnam. Although it is a remote possibility, resort to tactical nuclear weapons by either Pakistan or the US or both sides can not be completely ruled out if the war gets very protracted and frustrating for all parties involved. Indian or Chinese intervention is also possible, even probable, if a large number of refugees start to pour out of Afghanistan and Pakistan into India and China. The law of unintended consequences will prevail, unless we learn from our past mistakes.

Plea for Sanity:

With Pakistani and US media scrutinizing every US incursion into Pakistani territory, this dangerous game can easily unleash pent-up anger on both sides. For the sake of world peace and security in South Asia, I hope and pray that sanity will prevail in Washington and Islamabad before the US goes too far with its limited, covert commando raids into FATA.

Related Links:

Violence, Governance and Islam in Pakistan by Jochen Hippler

Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan

McCain-Obama Debate Pakistan Policy

Radicals Target FATA Tribal Elders

Views: 439

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 26, 2012 at 10:54pm

Here's an Express Tribune story on Pak and US efforts to develop FATA:

Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani inaugurated a US-funded road project in South Waziristan Agency on Monday — a move that may indicate easing of tensions between the estranged allies.

The development is being seen as a significant one as the army chief has recently distanced himself from being associated with the Americans. Furthermore, Kayani inaugurated the Tank-Gomal-Wana Road amid reports that Washington had shown willingness to accept some of Islamabad’s demands, including an apology for last year’s Salala air strikes.

A Pakistani official described the development as ‘positive’ saying despite recent hiccups in relations between the two countries, the US continued to fund important projects in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

“The US is proud to partner with the government of Pakistan in rebuilding key roads and infrastructure in Fata,” said Karen Freeman, acting director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Pakistan.

“We believe our joint efforts will bring commerce, jobs, trade and long-term security to this important region of Pakistan,” Freeman added.

The road connects to the US-funded 110 kilometre Tank-Makin Road, which was completed earlier this year at Kaur. The road will provide the people of Murtaza Kot, Nilikatch, Gomal Zam, Tanai, Tiarza and Wana in the South Waziristan Agency access to Tank, DI Khan and other parts of Pakistan, a statement issued by the US Embassy said.

USAID has contributed over $260 million for roads and other key infrastructure projects in Fata.

Meanwhile, the army chief attempted to strike a delicate balance when he suggested the military was compelled to launch an operation against militants in Waziristan.

However, after flushing out terrorists in the area, the army’s focus has now become centered on maintaining peace in the area by concentrating on rehabilitation and reconstruction activities, the army chief pointed out.

In a meeting with tribal elders, Kayani insisted that no army wanted to fight within its own borders.

“The army is concentrating on health and education facilities,” he added.

He also inaugurated Spinkai Ragzai Cadet College and reviewed the security situation besides ongoing developmental work in South Waziristan.

According to APP, Kayani said the army was deployed in the area on the demand of locals and would stay till the completion of development projects.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/395817/kayani-initiates-usaid-project-i...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 26, 2012 at 11:08pm

Here's a Dawn story on US AID projects in FATA:

The United States Agency for International Development will construct 200-kilometre roads in South and North Waziristan agencies in addition to undertaking longer term interventions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s education and health sectors.

Andrew Sisson, the agency’s mission director in Pakistan, told Dawn that the USAID had already constructed over 200km roads in South Waziristan and it was planning construction of additional 200km roads primarily in North Waziristan Agency and some in South Waziristan Agency.

“It (road construction) is an excellent investment in opening the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in terms of economy and business to the rest of the country,” he said.

The US agency, he said, had provided $201 million for roads linking North Waziristan and South Waziristan to the rest of Pakistan. He said that USAID was also planning to provide more resources for roads directly to the Fata Civil Secretariat later this year.

Similarly, the USAID signed an agreement in October last year for disbursing funds for the construction of irrigation network downstream Gomal Zam dam that, he said, would irrigate 120,000 cultivable acres, benefiting thousands of farm families. Some $9 million for construction irrigation network, he said, had been released to the Water and Power Development Authority in December last.

Mr Sisson said that investment in this part of Pakistan (KP and Fata), especially for education, health, infrastructure, community level activities, irrigation and business development, remained ‘a very high priority’ of the US government.

“We are budgeting for the future..we are hopeful that the funds would come after approval by our Congress,” said Mr Sisson, adding that the Obama administration was committed to maintaining high level of aid to Pakistan even during this rocky period (of relationship).

“Despite our relations, our aid levels are high,” he said, adding that his organisation would continue building schools in Fata and KP, which was a very important part of the bilateral relationship.

He said that their assistance to Pakistan was in the interest of the people of both the countries and that it had been achieving great results. The USAID-funded projects, according to him, put 400MW to the grid last year, some 500MW would be added to the system next year, and one million children went to schools constructed by the agency over the past few years.

“We want Pakistan to succeed, to be more stable and have a more prosperous economy,” he said, adding that their interest in Pakistan would continue no matter who was in power in the US.

He said that apart from funding five major interventions in the energy sector the US was looking into making other investments to help Pakistan overcome its energy sector. “We are in discussion with the government for carrying out feasibility studies for Diamer-Bhasha dam,” said the USAID director.

He said that the USAID was also assisting the Fata secretariat and the KP to help build their capabilities. Justifying delays in the execution of infrastructure projects in the KP and Fata, Mr Sisson said “Even in the United States complicated infrastructure projects don’t go on schedule and that’s very true in Pakistan (as well).”

He said that some of the infrastructure projects were being carried out in tough regions where security formed a major impediment to the on time completion of projects.

About corruption-free use of USAID funds, he said that except for two cases in which the USAID Office of Inspector General had collaborated with National Accountability Bureau, a majority of the projects had seen apt and honest use of funds.

http://dawn.com/2012/01/26/focus-on-rebuilding-roads-in-waziristan-2/

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 9, 2012 at 8:02pm

Here's a Guardian report on increasing enrollment in Pakistan's FATA region:

Bajaur, one of the seven administrative units in Pakistan's federally administered tribal area (Fata), on the border with Afghanistan, has experienced a marked rise in school enrolment since the beginning of the year. "Enrolment has increased and this year we enrolled 39,000 new students," says Muhammad Gul, an education officer in Bajaur. "Yet 80,000 remain out of school."

Gul believes poverty and illiteracy can be a potent combination in fuelling extremism. "If these kids don't have a pen in their hands, they will grow up and take up the Kalashnikov," he says.

Part of the reason for the increased level of enrolment in the area is the return of families displaced by conflict in 2008-09. Around 250,000 people were still displaced from Bajaur at the end of 2009, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. But for many the incentive is the ration of four litres of cooking oil (worth around £3, or just under $5) distributed every second month by the World Food Programme's (WFP) Back to School, Stay in School programme. To obtain the oil ration, students – who also receive locally manufactured high-energy biscuits daily from the WFP – must attend school 22 days each month.

The scheme was launched in January 2011 in Fata and all four provinces of Pakistan, but funding problems mean it is now limited to government-run schools in Fata (excluding North Waziristan, where the WFP is not working due to conflict). WFP spokesman Amjad Jamal says the programme has a two-pronged strategy: to address short-term hunger and nutritional deficiencies, and increase enrolment and retain those already in school. The WFP has been engaged in school feeding in Pakistan since 1968. Gul says that, of Bajaur's 616 schools, 435 (of which 135 are girls' schools) receive WFP help, benefiting 60,000 children. "Some areas are difficult to reach still and thus left out from the loop," he admits.

"We are seeking to make life easier for returnees by helping to ensure the provision of health and education," says Jamal. The NGO is supporting more than 990 schools, and 130,000 children take home the ration. The current programme ends in December, but will be renewed until 2015.

According to the International Crisis Group (pdf), there were around 4,660 primary schools, including 2,000 girls' schools, in Fata at the end of 2008. However, literacy remains low, and more than half of children who enrol in primary schools drop out before completing class five due to "poor quality of instruction, corporal punishment, teacher absenteeism, inaccessible locations and poorly maintained facilities, including shortages of furniture, clean drinking water and lavatories".

According to last year's national nutrition survey (pdf), 43.6% of Pakistani children under the age of five are stunted, 15.1% wasted, and 31.5% underweight. Approximately 32% are suffering from severe malnutrition, and 62.5% are anaemic.

Data collected by the directorate of education in Fata shows that, as of the end of March, 417 schools – including 133 for girls – had been blown up. Militants are still targeting educational institutions in the region, which is why parents are fearful of sending their children to school. However, Gul insists "poverty is a much bigger issue".

"Investing in the longer-term opportunities provided by education is not a consideration," Jamal says. And in tribal areas in particular, female education is seen as a wasted investment both economically and culturally.
..

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/aug/09/pakistan-f...

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 10, 2012 at 10:26pm

Here's an excerpt of The News story about Parachinar in Kurram Agency in FATA:

The government and local administration would take affective steps to maintain peace and for this purpose elders were also being taken into confidence, he added.

During interaction with the elders and other segments of the society, Governor Masood Kausar said the government could not maintain peace and stability without the cooperation of local population.

He said the government was serious to build schools and roads and provide better health and education facilities for which peace was a must and that could not be maintained without sincere support of all tribes. “Kurram Agency should be a role model for the rest of tribal agencies in Fata and it cannot be achieved without support of local people,” he said and warned that troublemakers would not be provided space to derail peace process in the area.

During his visit to Parachinar Public School, Degree College for Women and Sports Complex, he said no efforts would be spared to impart quality education to the future builders of the nation and healthy activities like games would be encouraged.

He announced provision of computers to the college and laboratory equipment to the school. He was informed that about 1,244 girls were enrolled in the college and 961 were studying at the school.

However, the institutions were short of teaching staff which the governor promised to overcome. The girl students asked the governor to fill all vacant posts in the college and regularise contract teachers. He also laid foundation-stone for construction of a Polytechnic Institute and inspected its site and directed that work on the project be accelerated.

The governor also inaugurated the new building of Parachinar Press Club and administered oath to its newly elected office-bearers. He was generous enough to announce Rs200,000 for the Press Club, Rs50,000 each for the winner and runner-up cricket teams at the sports complex and thousands more for the schoolchildren presenting PT show and other performances. The governor also held an open Katcheri to listen to the grievances of the people.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-7-141696-Governor-says-situat...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 4, 2013 at 11:27am

Here's excerpt of an NBC report on Waziristan agency of FATA in Pakistan:

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — It's been called the most dangerous place in the most dangerous region on the planet.

A rugged swathe of tribal territory nestled between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Waziristan is ground zero for some of the region's most notorious militant groups and warlords, including the Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani network.

North and South Waziristan are hit by more U.S. drone attacks than anywhere else in the world.

NBC News obtained rare access to South Waziristan and last week became the first foreign team of journalists to report from North Waziristan.
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At the heart of the army's plans to rebuild the area is a 370-mile road — funded in large part by USAID money. The road, half of which is complete, will connect the isolated and insular tribal communities to each other, as well as the rest of mainstream Pakistan and to trading routes across the border in Afghanistan.

When finished, the roadway will offer a third link from Pakistan to Afghanistan, and the army hopes, will encourage business development along its path through Waziristan.

In addition to the road project, the army has taken on development projects far outside its traditional roles.

Along with the markets, two military schools, known here as Cadet Colleges, were built in South Waziristan to offer young men a rigorous education and boarding-school environment, unlike any educational opportunity available in the region before.

Col. Zahid Naseem Akbar, principal of the Cadet College, Spinkai, said he hopes the school will gives boys in the area the same opportunities as those elsewhere in the country.

"They have the same potential as any other citizen of this country has," Akbar said. "And I think we owe it to them that we provide them the opportunity to join the mainstream."

The army is overseeing the rebuilding to schools demolished by the Taliban and building schools for the first time in some areas, including for girls. The military established the Waziristan Institute for Technical Education -- a vocational school to train young men who missed their early education during Taliban rule.

And the army is restoring water supplies and electrical systems and funding what they call "livelihood projects," training and empowering local small businesses in everything from honey bee farming and fruit orchards, to auto repair and transport services.

"The strategy that the Pakistan army has adopted is a people-centric strategy," Hayat said. "So the more areas you've able to clear, the more infrastructure you're able to build, the more people you are able to bring back and sustain. Provide them economic opportunities. That is the measure of success."

Ideal habitat for Taliban
Frontline commanders all say the battle for Waziristan will not be won with hearts and minds alone. Security operations continue, gradually increasing what they call their "elbow space" in the region.

Both North and South Waziristan feature snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, hidden caverns, and daunting mountain ranges which provide natural cover. It's the ideal habitat for the Taliban and other groups seeking refuge and covert routes for travel between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/04/17177391-a-rare-glimp...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 4, 2013 at 2:13pm

Here's PakTribune on promoting livestock revolution in FATA:

PESHAWAR: To bring white revolution and fulfill people's meat demands, the government has decided to launch two mega projects for uplift of livestock sector in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) areas shortly to bolster income of tribal people especially of women folk.One of the mega projects is “Calves Fattening Project” that would be launched this month to fulfill the demands of quality meat of the ever growing population of the country. Official sources in Fata Livestock and Dairy Development told APP on Sunday that Calves Fattening Project would be launched in Frontier Regions of Peshawar, Kohat and Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai Agencies this month and would later be extended to other tribal agencies. He said it was a two-year project that would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs. 68 million.

A registered farmer/livestock owner, having cows or buffalos' calves (male) between 10 to 50 numbers would be provided free of cost technical support in formation of farms houses besides medicines, insemination, vaccination and fodder's services at their doorsteps, he added. It will be mandatory for the registered beneficiary livestock owner/farmers to look after and keep its calves in his/her farm for at least three months for provision of above services on constant basis by the Livestock Department. He said at least 3000 calves would be fattened in next two years under this Project.This would help improve the income of tribal people besides generating employment opportunities in Fata and will provide healthy and quality meat to consumers. Another project that is establishment of a model farm in Khyber Agency was also in pipeline and hopefully its PC-I would be completed this month and would be launched after completion of codal formalities, he added.

Under this project, 50 cows would be kept in the model farm for cross-breeding that would not only help produce quality and healthy breed but also increase per kilogram meat and milk production in Fata. The estimated cost of this project is Rs.100 million that would be launched in Khyber Agency on pilot basis soon. He said negotiations were underway with donor agencies for establishment of Milk Processing Plant in Fata to improve quality of milk and earn valuable foreign exchange for the country besides bringing economic improvement in the lives of tribesmen.These project will help support national efforts for poverty alleviation by providing a model for sustainable rural development through livestock-based income generating activities at the rural community level and will help reduces poverty, enhances development opportunities for women and poor farmers, improves household food security and nutrition.
----------

In addition to capacity building of doctors and veterinary assistants, he said mobile clinics project was successfully underway in Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber and Bajaur Agencies wherein specialist doctors and vetarnary assistants were providing quality services to farmers and livestock owners living in remote areas.These projects are aimed at to exploit the vast potential of livestock and dairy development in Fata and make it income-generating ventures for tribesmen to improve their life style.

http://paktribune.com/business/news/Rs-168m-projects-for-uplift-of-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 21, 2013 at 12:28pm

Here's a News story on Pak students participating in international robotics competition:

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Robotics team will leave for United States of America on April 23 to take part in First Lego League (FLL) international robotics competition to be held on April 24 in United States of America (USA).

According to details, the National Robotics Champions Team would be the first-ever Pakistani team to take part in World Festival. Pakistani team, out of 20 teams, won the regional championship title earlier in qualifying round held for the International competition.

It was also the winner team in the national robotics championship as it defeated 13 other teams.

It may be noted that out of 20,000 teams which took part in the competition worldwide, only 85 teams were declared successful as they cleared the national qualifying rounds. Now they would take part in the FLL World Festival to be held from April 24 to April 27 in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Three-member team comprising Vice Captain Muhammad Rafay Arshad, Abdullah Gulraiz and Umar Khalique along with coach Saeed Akhtar will leave on Tuesday.

The team members have expressed the hope that they will win the international title for Pakistan.

Earlier, the team comprised 7 members but now only three team members will participate in world festival along with their coach, said a statement. (PPI)

http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-97782-Pakistan-robotics-team-to-c...

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 21, 2013 at 4:22pm

Here's an ET story on education in Waziristan:

A quiet and peaceful revolution is taking place in South Waziristan. Girls, with the support and protection of the tribal elders and the community, are going to school. The Chaghmalai Government Girls High School is about to open its doors to welcome its first 269 students.
After staying several years in internally displaced persons’ camps or with host families elsewhere, locals are returning to South Waziristan. Due to extensive destruction during the conflict, starting again has been tough, especially for the poorest and the most vulnerable. Despite these hardships, a positive development has emerged — communities are passionate to educate their children, both boys and girls.
Since returning, the elders have held numerous jirgas with the army to discuss how to achieve lasting peace and a sustainable economic future. Perhaps, the exodus to other parts of Pakistan created a better understanding among the communities of the value of education and its role in achieving a better life. In a region where literacy rates for males is 29 per cent and for females just three per cent, this is a big step forward.
There are so many positive signs of change. During a visit in March, I attended the rehearsals for a Pakistan Day school concert in Spinkai Raghzai, one of the poorest villages. Like children all over the country, preparing for a national day celebration, the children in Spinkai Raghzai were just as excited, though a little nervous about performing in front of their peers and guests.
The theme was peace and education, developed around the quotes of the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. But what made this little pageant so special was the setting. This is a post-conflict environment where children and their families have suffered terror, tragedy and great loss. In the past, the Taliban ran suicide-training camps in Spinkai and it has been the scene of unimaginable horror. Even now, the children there suffer anxiety that the militants might return.
It was hard not to be emotional. Only hard-hearted cynics could fail to be touched by the sense of occasion, or how remarkable this was in a now-peaceful village with so dark a recent history, or to mock the children’s hopes and enthusiasm for a peaceful future. I was reminded of a quote from Arundhati Roy’s, The God of Small Things, “That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”...

http://tribune.com.pk/story/552396/a-peaceful-revolution-in-south-w...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 17, 2014 at 10:10pm

Here's a PakistanToday story on a poll on secular education in madrasas:

Majority of Pakistanis believe an Imam should be aware of other subjects including science, technology, English etc besides his religious knowledge.

According to a Gilani Research Foundation Survey carried out by GallupPakistan, 72 per cent Pakistanis found it compulsory for Imam of mosques to gain knowledge of other subjects other than religious education.

A nationally representative sample of adult men and women, from across the four provinces was asked “Should the Imam be aware of subjects like science and technology, English language etc. besides his religious knowledge or not?” Responding to this, 72 percent said yes while only 28 per cent rejected this idea.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/04/02/city/lahore/72-pakistani...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 16, 2015 at 10:15am

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Wednesday inaugurated multiple project in Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) as part of post military operation rehabilitation plan.

According to Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asim Bajwa the army chief inaugurated Cadet College Wana, 132 KV grid station along 54 km long transmission line and a 62 km long road to connect Dera Ismail Khan (DI KHAN) and Tank during his day long visit to South Waziristan.

Speaking on the occasion, General Raheel Sharif said the process of development will continue till complete rehabilitation of tribal region whose people sacrificed to cleans terrorism announcing that every promise made with Temporarily Displaced People (TDP) will be fulfilled.

He said the operation Zarb-e-Azb was in final stages and soon the tribal people will be back in their homes and terrorists shall never return back. He also commended the locals for their sacrifices.

General Raheel Sharif announced that Pakistan army will stay in the region till the mission is completed urging the people of FATA to actively take part in rehabilitation process by army to attain the fruits of military operation and prosperity.

The statement further added these projects will not only improve the quality of life in the areas but also become a source of jobs for locals.

The 62 km long Dera Ismail Khan-Tank Road is part of 705 km long Central Trade Corridor that will be linked to Afghanistan, he said.

http://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/headline/army-chief-inaugurates-mult...

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