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Hub of peace


October 2, 2020

Recently, via the platform of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence, I had availed the opportunity to visit North Waziristan, adjacent to the Afghan border.

This mountainous region, with five rivers, is one of the most beautiful regions of Pakistan. In the past, it also made news headlines in national and international media as the world’s most dangerous region. Geographically, it is located between the Kurram River (Tochi River) to the north and the Gomal River to the south.

British rulers, in order to maintain dominance over the Wazir tribe, had deprived the locals of their civic and human rights. Political agents were appointed in various tribal agencies and they were given unlimited powers. Despite all of this, the people of Waziristan have a glorious history of tireless struggle against British imperialism.

After independence, Quaid-e-Azam visited Waziristan as the first governor general of Pakistan. In his address to the tribal leaders, he declared the patriotic people of Fata as the frontline force for national defence. However, it is quite unfortunate that Waziristan was never given due priority by any government during the 70-year history of our country.

Due to this ignorance by our governments and conspiracies of enemies, this beautiful area of Pakistan was considered as a no-go area. After the 9/11 attacks, this region was most affected by terrorism. To achieve their heinous goals, terrorists tried to exploit the sentiments of innocent civilians. The Taliban also dominated the erstwhile Fata from 2001 to 2007. Most of the suicide attacks and terrorist activities across the country were linked directly and indirectly with these areas.

In order to liberate this area from the control of terrorists, our armed forces carried out around 14 major military operations including Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Raddul-Fasaad, resulting in clearing of around 47,000km area; the writ of the state was also established. More than four thousand lives were sacrificed for achieving this noble goal. Two years ago on May 31, 2018 this area was merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Today, tremendous development can be seen in Waziristan. We can see good roads and construction work there. Around Rs24 billion in budget had been allocated for the developmental projects in that area, 66 percent of which has been used to improve infrastructure.

However, there is a need to focus on strengthening other public sectors, including judiciary, law and order, health, and education, etc. With the facilitation of GOC Shakir, I had the opportunity to exchange views with Deputy Commissioner Shahid Ali Khan and DPO Shafiullah Gandapur. I also met two honorable Maliks from the local jirga – Malik Khan Marjan Wazir and Malik Jan Faraz.

I am very pleased to know that the local people there and the government are on the same page on the issue of the Fata merger. To keep an eye on movement oon the Afghan border, a Border Management System has also been introduced. As per my knowledge, 171km out of 231km long Afghan border with North Waziristan has been covered with fences whereas speedy work is going on in the remaining part.

After the merger of (former) Fata, we need to introduce business incentives in order to attract the attention of the business community. In this regard, I suggest that the business community should be given a ten-year exemption to transfer businesses to North Waziristan. It will also create numerous job opportunities for the locals. The legitimate grievances of the people must also be listened to on a priority basis.

Our brave forces have brought peace to the region after countless sacrifices over the years. Now, it is the responsibility of the political leadership to bring former Fata into the national mainstream. A solid strategic work plan must also be devised to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the people and transform this beautiful region into a hub of peace and tourism.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani