FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Areas) has been underlined as the most dangerous region of the world, or even some intellectuals (whose very intellect is immensely doubtful to me) call it the `Red Zone` of the world. Now a natural query that always scratches my head off, and which might freak one a little out a bit too, `How about the people living in the red zone?`, `How about the families spending their time in there?`, `How about the very youth belonging to these areas`? These are some mind scratchers and random mongers, always itching the indifferent, unheard and unclear. But for the moment being, I`ll pick the latest out of the lot, i.e. the very youth and the problems they face in there, education in particular, would be today`s agenda. The overall situation when discussed might get politicized which aren’t my cup of tea, INDEED!
Youth is the ultimate asset and future of any country. Pakistan is no exception. Today, let`s do some serious audit and self accountability, ask yourself, do these people have any access to any social rights? Oh, I guess I am taken a little more far flung by my emotions for the day being. Let’s get our heads down to the very basic human right as per the `United Nations Charter` or any charter in the world, i.e. EDUCATION. I have penned the word education in bold. Oh! It gives a shouting appeal in the writing norms. Am I really shouting? Do I? Really? Okay if you get it this way, so just be it!
Yes, I am shouting. I feel like shouting. The matter is worth it. The very matter is so Goddamn worth it. O` all you big shots out there, o` all you mighty swords and o` all you old big time Greek emperors out there, aren’t you listening to the un-counting, random and grieved voices. Let me just buy some of your precious time, discuss and draft a fact sheet about these very young springs, keeping education as a niche and magnum opus. Let`s get neutral for a moment, if you may please.
They say the charity begins at home. First off, I would like to share something that happened to me back in the time when I wanted to pursue my higher education and to enroll in Master`s program in Australia. I wrote an email to a professor in Malaysia to seek some help out and requested to extend his help and give me some tips which could help me fetch some scholarships. When I received the email back via another respected professor, I was stunned for a moment. God knows that I was literally shocked. The very honorable professor very generously had asked me to include in my personal statement that we don’t have any electricity in Pakistan, especially in FATA it`s just part of the history. This was the first ever brain teaser and a food for thought for me to get my head down on the very basic necessity of human life in the contemporary arena which was, `Yes, we don’t have any electricity in our country, oh yes, I didn’t even think about it how deprived as a nation we are` Are we that laggards and poor? So poor of us and our fortunes. God knows well I didn’t register this reality prior to that, partially because of the reality constructs we have. Might be! To worsen the situation off, I thought to me, I don’t belong to FATA, how about the people living in there? How miserable the students would have been in those areas at any course? Oh God! Help us all.
The matter of education is of utter importance. Students from FATA and Pakhtun region don’t even have basic necessities to compete with the rest of Pakistan and likewise, the world. They just have to go by the prevailing miserable situations of the country, particularities applied to their respective areas with other manifold hazards. They have to pave their ways to create opportunities for themselves all by virtue of their struggle only. They don’t have any socio-economic stability. Terrorism has struck them like a plague. The widespread poverty and unemployment has done the rest to snatch the basic right of education. They don’t have the infrastructure, building and teachers. Sky is the only roof when they attend their schools. No check and balance on the teachers who remain absent for years. Drones are killing innocents and families and confiscating these very humans the right of being called a human even. Every single house has one Malala at least, and counting.
Having said all of this, these outlined fact-bits are the outcomes. They are not the problems, at-least to me. The chief and primary thing is the `Intention` of the government which is so rare, outdated and has remained only a question mark, just the way always it has been. The very intention that government always blesses the rest of Pakistan with but strictly speaking, NOT FATA (I am saying it by sources, and not by means of any prejudice or bias). For example, Danish school is the project of one of the provinces in Pakistan, and that province already has the best education system not even in Pakistan but accredited and acknowledged worldwide. My question to you is, does FATA need these kind of projects more or else? To me, every government is as respectable, to the threshold, as advertised by the constitution of Pakistan, but my point is about priorities. My intention is just to get their eyeballs rolling towards the emergency situation in FATA. The government seems to be in some delta sleep and long-lasting denial to address these basic issues. How unfair and inhuman it is! *Sigh*
Adding on to the said, federal government announces different national and international scholarships for FATA students. For example, USAID Students Exchange Program and others. I just want to take the opportunity to make an impression out here. Allow me! For crying out loud, is your primary and secondary education more important or your higher education? Agree to disagree but to me, it`s always primary. I have got my reasons to debate with people having otherwise opinion and I duly respect those. That’s pretty debatable. `We do get some opportunities at higher level, mostly for Ph.D and MS level but those are mostly grabbed by the selected-few who come through by thin and thick all their life and are the products of the process, who are self made. We don’t get something at primary or secondary level`, told a FATA student to the correspondent. `Out of the whole FATA, We don’t even include in the one percent who get a chance to pursue higher education, our mates from the primary schools never make it after middle even because of infinite many other contributing factors, government intention and their lack of interest in our region is one of those`, he added.
Now, a reality check, It’s very clear from his comments that if we ever get to magnify on the bits he tabled, we would come to the conclusion that you get admitted in higher education when you see through your primary, middle, high and secondary schools. What if you don’t have these? Is there any mechanism to have the eligibility and get admitted for the higher degrees? Of course NOT! In the first place, government needs to announce `Education Emergency` and come up with `Education Reforms` for FATA, mainstreaming the primary and high education. For example, government of KP has started the school enrollment drive which is tremendously successful and would have its long lasting effects on the region, strategically speaking. On national level, we need to generalize those too. It will have strategic and long-lasting benefits and effects on this region. Just one example, the socio-economic conditions would ultimately be improved when you raise the educational standards. All stakeholders would reap the benefits and the state itself would be the topmost benefactor of the detailed.
The situation of FATA is really getting twisted around. Government of Pakistan still has time to rescue all those young springs and the future leaders of Pakistan. Better late than never! If some foreign elements have made them what they have to face today, shouldn’t be generalized on the larger part of it, the very tribal brave youth who loves Pakistan just as any other Pakistani or even more and has equal rights as any other Pakistani would have. My concern is it`s youth. Let other platforms should handle the political situations. There image is tarnished, the face is muddy and hugger-mugger and their future is blurred. Where do you expect them to go in future? What do you expect them to do for living? How are they going to feed their kids? Every single thing that is not incorporated in the law, automatically becomes the OUTLAW? `Don`t we need to incorporate them as the proper citizens of Pakistan`, is the cry of the day. These are the very basic questions that you need to ask yourself in the first place. Adding on to the advantages, I ask you a very simple question, `What happens when you replace a pen in someone`s hand with a grenade`?
Muhammad Bilal is a brand manager, lecturer and a trainer and career counselor. He holds an MBA degree in Marketing and International Business from NUST Business School, Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org