With the nation all set to embark upon its journey towards Naya Pakistan, the captain in the driving seat has to make some unpopular, harsh and quick decisions to steer the ship of the misguided nation into the right direction and pull it out of the troubled water ahead. Faced with a number of challenges on international front, the country has numerous challenges to fight at home as well. Unemployment, price hike, poverty and diseases are all seasons’ friends. Every 9th Pakistani suffers from Hepatitis A or B. The number of diabetic patients has gone over 35 million across the country. Every 10th lady is suffering from breast cancer. Natural disasters coupled with manmade disasters play havoc with human lives almost every year. But unfortunately with the new emerging story, the existing one goes into the background. And this is how the political managers of the country try to run the state affairs on ad hoc basis.
If one has to prioritize the issues, terrorism would top the list followed by economic and energy crises, bad governance and massive corruption in state institutions.
To deal with the menace of terrorism, the PML-N led government launched military operations across the erstwhile FATA region that yielded good results. However, the government soon realized that the gains achieved at the battlefronts could be secured only if its backed by a well thought out and well defined developmental agenda. The high level six member’s committee on FATA reforms in its report to the Prime Minister recommended a) early relocation of the displaced persons, b) extension of the higher judiciary to FATA c) a comprehensive 10 years socio-economic development plan d) land settlement e) establishment of local governance structure in FATA and f) a gradual merger of FATA into KP.
The outgoing PML-N led government, after extending the writ of the higher judiciary to FATA, announced its merger into KP right at the last moment of its five-year’s tenure with an interim arrangement “ FATA Interim Governance Regulation” in place to govern the unruly FATA during the transition period. Many believe the unexpected announcement was a political stunt aimed at grabbing a major chunk of votes from the region that constitute over five million of the country’s 20 million population. Whatever the motivations may be, the move is seen as a major development towards mainstreaming the alienated region and putting it on the track to progress and prosperity. The PML-N led government has, no doubt, put its share in meeting the long overdue demand of the tribesmen by making the erstwhile FATA part of the KP. Now it is entirely up to the Khan’s led PTI team how do they move ahead and materialize the plan of bringing the marginalized region at par with the rest parts of the country, something Khan has long been advocating for.
The political and judicial vacuum coupled with bad governance and massive corruption in state institutions in the erstwhile FATA that resulted in creating a gap between the state and society ultimately led to the people’s exclusion from the political process. Resultantly, this widening gap that led to a trust deficit between the rulers and the ruled provided a space for the non-state actors (militant Taliban) to bank on the sense of deprivation and frustration developed amongst the masses over the years. By arriving on the scene, the militant Taliban, in first instance, started cutting those roots that they viewed were connecting the state with society and denying them space to consolidate their power on the political stage of the area. Hence the tribal elders, maliks and journalists remained the prime targets. The militants blew up over 800 schools in the erstwhile FATA where they viewed the young educated lot a potential threat to their interests.
The prevailing chaos, disruption and disorder in society led people to lose confidence over state and its institutions. It was here they started taking law into their hands.
To connect the dots, the government has to restore people’s confidence by bridging the gap between the state and society. State-citizen relationship should be strengthened. And this is possible only when a common man is empowered by giving him a say in the decision making process. He should be given a sense of ownership by including him in the political process.
The establishment of a local governance structure and early elections to the 21 provincial assembly seats scheduled for October 2018 and April 2019 respectively offers a perfect solution to the sense of frustrations and deprivations developed by the people of the alienated area over the years. This should be on top of the new government’s agenda if it really wants a terrorism free and safer Pakistan.
It remains a fact that the writ of the state could hardly be restored in the absence of a formal governance structure. Similarly, participatory development is possible only when powers are delegated on lower level. Delegation of powers from top to bottom could break the status quo allowing the people to have their due say in the decision making process and ultimately develop a sense of ownership to the system they are part of.
The legal experts say there is a constitutional provision for holding early elections to the provincial assembly seats reserved for tribal districts. With the institution of almost 45000 elected representatives in place, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is better equipped and well prepared to hold the local bodies elections at any stage in erstwhile FATA.
This would help take the hapless people of FATA from the abyss of darkness into light and from an exploitative system of administration to a 21st century modern system of governance where citizens have an individual and collective right to provision of services by the state and public officials in a transparent, responsive and accountable manner. This would, ultimately, better help achieve the over-arching objective of building trust between the state and its citizens.
The writer is an Islamabad based freelance journalist.