THE priorities are right. According to a Fata secretariat handout, the financial year 2013-14 annual development plan for Fata places emphasis on the completion of ongoing schemes as well as those with immediate and visible socio-economic benefits, and discourages projects which would have little impact. Unlike many other parts of the country that are also backward, Fata — despite the extension of the political parties act to the area — is still not part of the national mainstream, and international crises on its periphery have added to its misfortunes. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US-led attack on the Taliban-ruled country, and the wave of militancy that spilled over into Fata in the wake of these events destroyed such industry as it had and threw the tribal people decades back into time. While the degree of militancy varies from one agency to another, the cumulative effect on the entire region is hostile to all development activity.
However, the Fata population in its entirety must not be tarred with the same brush. As last month’s elections have shown, the majority of Fata people and tribal elders are keen to shake off retrogressive attitudes and become part of the mainstream. This arms the federal government and Fata authorities with a moral authority to work for the welfare of the majority and disregard the minority standing between the tribesmen and a better life. Yet, going by the fate of annual development plans over the last few years, it is unlikely that the Fata administration will be able to utilise even half of the nearly Rs19bn allocated for 2013-14, particularly if steps to bring the law and order situation under control are not simultaneously undertaken. Much more concerted efforts are required to bring the area at par with the rest of the country.