The war on terror that was fought in the Tribal Areas for more than decade has cost the people of the area dearly, especially when considered the loss for education for the youth. Abdul Hadi writes about the effects and the need for a renewed focus on education in the affected areas.
he Education Policy 2009 considers education a categorical imperative for individual, social and national development, one that should enable all individuals to reach their maximum potential. The system should produce responsible, enlightened citizens that help integrate Pakistan into the global framework of human-centered economic development. However, the regions formerly part of Federally Administered Area of Pakistan (FATA) – now made part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – still struggle with the effects of the decade-long war on terror, with education outcomes leaving a lot, really, to be desired.In the aftermath of 9/11, terrorism emerged as a serious threat for Pakistan. The response to curb terrorism initiated a war on terror that was fought deep in the heart of FATA.
It was once a semi-autonomous region in the north west of Pakistan consisting of seven tribal agencies – Bajaur, Khyber, Mohmand, Orakzai, Kurram, South and North Waziristan – the region turned into a hotbed of militancy as the state only had a limited writ in the region, an understanding that continued from colonial era. Extremist primarily exploited residents of the area in the name of religion and tribal culture. For this purpose, they specifically targeted the uneducated faction of the society as they could be misled quite easily, hence, winning them over to their side for their vested interests. This eventually paved the way for the military to step into the area. Once the country’s armed forces moved to reinstate the state’s writ, the entire social system of the Tribal Areas saw a collapsed. In a lengthy physical and mental battle between the armed forces and extremists, millions faced internal displacement that dissolved almost all social institutions in the area, including education.
Even before the war on terror was taken to the militants in FATA, limited state intervention and the intense involvement of the regions people in the Afghan Jihad did not do much for social, political and economic stability in the region. Consequently, the shambolic state of affairs in the region never made way for a focus on educational infrastructure. What little was available was run to the ground by terrorism, socio-economic disruption and ultimately the war on terror.
In a lengthy physical and mental battle between the armed forces and extremists, millions faced internal displacement that dissolved almost all social institutions in the area, including education.
As a result of these multipronged factors, including the trauma and fear of a war in your neighborhood has led to numerous psychological problems among the residents in general and the youth in particular, The post 9/11 war on terror engulfed everything the tribal youth ever looked up to – learners, educators, and educational institutions. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has revealed that schools destroyed by the extremists in the Tribal Areas “numbered 440, of which 130 were girls’ schools”. The break-up shows that five schools were destroyed in North Waziristan Agency, 24 schools in South Waziristan Agency, 85 schools in Kurram Agency and 62 schools were bombed in Mohmand Agency”. In addition to Waziristan, military operations and terrorism also brought the education sector in other tribal regions to a virtual standstill. Last but not the least, the Federal Government’s ignorance and the absence of timely reform policies for FATA have resulted in a decreased literacy rate in the Tribal Areas.
Furthermore, an alternate education system for youth displaced by the war was never put in place. The decade long crisis and instability in the region has affected almost the three generations of the tribal people. Not only have children paid a heavy price, elders and women have equally suffered painstakingly the impact of terrorism. Boomers became psychological patients, millennials fell prey to Talibanization and unemployment, and school-going children were left out on the road. As a whole, the tribal society has been pushed much closer to the Stone Age than it earlier was. Undoubtedly,
it will take decades to bring FATA at par with the rest of the country.However, in the post 9/11 context, education is the only reliable cure for socio-economic development to counter the effects of terrorism. This has been realized the government and it is this very realization that has led to the initiation of several programs to uplift the education system in former FATA regions. A number of colleges, and schools are being developed across the area to improve literacy rates. Moreover, USAID has also been contributing to the development of the region, particularly in terms of education.
The decade long crisis and instability in the region has affected almost the three generations of the tribal people.
Taking into account the impact of war on terror on education in FATA, it can safely said that strengthening the education system in these former tribal regions will automatically add to the social and economic development. Being the backbone of socio-economic, socio-cultural, and socio-political progress, education must be regulated in the former tribal areas at all costs. This will consolidate the power of social institutions at the community level and the state institutions in the tribal agencies.
Abdul Hadi is a student at Centre of International Peace and Stability at NUST.