The 31st amendment of Pakistan constitution finally bought the border areas into the mainstream political and legal structures of Pakistan. The five million people of the area with an estimated 2.5 million women population in it have experienced the most traumatic and anxiety-ridden times during the past two decades and continues to do so because of many complex reasons. Unchecked militarization, war, bombing and displacement have not left any inhabitant not affected by the conflict.

FATA remains one of the poorest regions in the country partly because of a corrupt colonial system but also due to the conflict While there is no denying the fact that when an area is hit by years of conflict, there is no doubt that every person’s life in that area is, in one way or another, changed forever. Whether it is the man who lost a limb in a bomb blast or landmine, the woman whose husband was killed by Taliban or the child who lost his parents in a surprise attack on his village. The aftermath of a conflict is often just as traumatic, if not more so than the conflict itself. The after-effects can be extremely severe, leaving thousands of people homeless, in extreme poverty, terribly ill, and with acute post-traumatic psychological disorders.

However, any armed conflict affects women and children overwhelmingly as they are the soft targets for attacks, similarly two decades of militancy and war has taken a terrible toll on women and children of fata, for which they are not largely responsible no matter whoever one blames for the conflict.

While FATA women have been disproportionately affected by the war, they have been kept out of all efforts for peace and reforms dialogue, systematically discriminated by the patriarchal culture and all the powerful men in legal, religious and state institutions. They have been made invisible in the conflict reported only as victims giving birth in makeshift camps for displaced people or tending to young ill children in media images. The state has made a complete disregard for their activities, struggles and suffering during the conflict. They have been completely overlooked into the 31 amendment with no special provisions required for a region which has gone through most challenging times recently in Pakistan.

The state has failed to understand their miseries. The media only provided information post-Zarb Azab military operation that described the tough conditions women endure to survive the conflict yet, they constantly ignored the actions women took as principal actors and survivors and what needed to be done to alleviate their suffering.

Although 31 amendment offers the long-term political rehabilitation of FATA as a region but offers no priorities for short-term immediate relief a war-scarred area requires.

The necessary financial resource explicitly needed to help women left destitute and vulnerable because of the conflict. The state has not taken into stock that existing inequalities are magnified by the war, and with broken social networks their miseries have only increased.

The amendment offers no special provisions for the women of FATA. No relief is given to sole women bread earners, no shelter homes for women and girls with no families’ left or legal help to those women who lost their men in war, and their land and property ultimately taken over by someone else. With abysmal Health facilities no emergency clause was introduced to help the vulnerable nor any vocational training center offered to help the lowest poverty stricken bracket of women. The poor economic condition underlined by conflict along with the traditional structures not offering much space, there could be no lasting success without women participation in rebuilding the region.

With a vacuum of legal, social and state structure, the women are the most hopeless victims of this conflict. The contributions and leadership of women, both in traditional and contemporary settings, are critical to ensuring meaningful and sustainable peace and for that special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement needs to be met on a priority basis which 31 amendment failed to provide immediately.

We understand that Pakistani politics are characterized by patriarchal practices and values that cannot be easily changed, and women exclusion from FATA reforms or responding to the diverse experiences of women who have lived through the conflict was not on the agenda of state but they could have done better in identifying their priorities for reconstruction which are typically a significant part of enduring peace.

 

The writer is from Fata. She has a degree in human rights from University of London.