Integrating the tribal youth into national mainstream

By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

It is a considered fact that youth of a nation is the basic driving force in the social uplift and national development. The Tribal youth, mostly aging between 12 to 35 years constitutes over 53 % of the total FATA population. The existing youth of FATA has been brought up in an environment which is marked by militancy either in the form of promoting the US agenda through global Jihad against Soviet invasion of Afghanistan throughout during 1980s or the ongoing global war against terrorism, following the incident of 9/11. Majority of the youth became either victim or part of militancy under unavoidable circumstances existed ever since once used by the local as well as by the foreign militants for their vested interests. Their retrieval and putting them back on the right track would require a gigantic exertion. Because of unemployment and the so-called religious motivation, a majority of them became hard-core militants and still a vast number might be looking for an opportunity to fall on either side. The opportunity must be ceased to bring them back, before they became party to militants. Irrespective of the wherewithal, there are inveterate indications that these militants have plethora of capital to take into service the unemployed youth of FATA. Inopportunely, over the past few years, there has been a gradual increase and spread of militancy with a worsening law and order situation in the Tribal region. It is feared that if appropriate measures are not taken, the current adolescent generation will also get into the control of cantankerous in the days to come. The situation may be manageable today but if we allow this crisis to linger on without taking due cognizance of upcoming generation, it might get shoddier, compelling us to play in the hands of militants. Thus, there is a pressing need for the concurrent engagement of tribal youth aging from 6-35 years in three broad clusters as mentioned below. The critical cluster of the youth having age from 6-12 years, requires instant consideration. In order to exonerate from Madrassa culture, there is a need to provide an alternative option of education to this group of the youth. Although there exists 5,344 educational institutions in the tribal areas, but owing to the inauspicious law and order situation, majority of them remain close. In order to ensure a smooth conduct of formal educational process, a group of volunteer youth from the area; preferably one per family ought to be chosen with the consent of their parents and educated in the good public schools located elsewhere in the country with boarding and lodging amenities to be borne by the Federal Government. Such an experience has met success in the recent past, once a limited group of youth was put through the basic education in Army Public schools at Peshawar, Bannu and Kohat. While majority of these students might be put through the normal and technical education, the glowing students may be segregated and provided an opportunity to go for higher professional education like engineering, medical or information technology. Though it is a long-term investment, however if tailored correctly, this class can change the fortune of FATA in the future. Following the basic group, the next category of the youth is of the age bracket from 13-18 years. There is a need that youth of this crucial age bracket from all over FATA may be registered and given technical training in various fields. This is the most susceptible age group available to be exploited by terrorists and militants. This group may be trained for a small duration, to have basic know how or to obtain diploma in various technical trades, followed by on job training. At government level, there must be made sufficient funds available for extending services to this class of youth either through already available technical institutions or else mobile technical institutions may be established temporarily in the settled areas. The arrangement must cater for their boarding and lodging as well. Even small stipend as an incentive for the duration of training may also be provided to the trainees. Progressively this provision may be converted into permanent feature. In order to bring a consistency in this effort, necessary arrangements must be made for quick employment of the qualified youth, so that they are not drifted back. The likely areas in technical education may include; agriculture, transport, provision of civic services, small, medium and heavy industry, etc. Depending upon the level of skills, some of the qualified individuals could also be inducted in technical branches of law enforcement agencies. Quite a number of them could be given interest free loans to purchase tractors, etc. and also to run their independent small setups. Better-qualified youth may also be considered for nursing and teaching in their areas of expertise. Unfortunately, owing to successive oversights and being out of work, a number of the mature class of tribal youth, now aging from 18-35 years, has become party to the militants. Nonetheless, it is not impracticable to convert this category into a productive class, but surely more time would be needed to change the perception of this mentally hardened cadre through inducement packages and provisioning of alternative means of earning. Upon their segregation from militants they can be given loans to setup their small business. They may be employed for building of communication infrastructure, civics facilities and establishment of other resource bases alongside the skilled manpower. In this way they would be engaged mentally as well as physically towards a positive input, rather becoming available for exploitation by militants. Besides the proposed stratagem for revitalization and assimilation of tribal youth into national mainstream, there is an urgent need that the existing educational institutions should be rejuvenated with enabling environment for the youth to fearlessly resume their educational sessions. Parents should be convinced to send their children to schools. Shortages of teachers should be made-up from settled areas of the NWFP or other parts of the country. A similar effort is required for basic health services and civic facilities. Besides, an enormous strength of tribal youth otherwise peripatetic without any job should be gradually inducted into Frontier Corps, local police or Khasadar forces. It will serve double purpose; one, Pakistan Army would be relieved of the extra yoke and two; a lot of local youth would be able to get decent jobs, which will curtail the youth's unemployment dilemma. The quandary likely to be confronted is, whether these militants would let this integration of youth to go on by government functionaries under the prevailing flimsy situation. It is appreciated that a lot of spadework would be required to undertake this gigantic task of integration of youth into the national main stream. Hard core militant organizations would go all out to obstruct this integration. Moreover a lot of protective measures would have to be taken in selection and moving the youth to the pre-designated institutions or to human resource bases. To take care of this aspect, initially there would be requirement of dedicated security arrangements for the families of all those youth, who voluntarily opt to be integrated into the national main stream. The current presence of security forces in the region will be helpful in this regard. However the khasadar force and Frontier Corps may be considered to cater for this aspect on the long run.
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Dated: Saturday,March 28, 2009, Rabi-ul-Awwal 30, 1430 A.H.