Not so long ago, whenever the TV was turned on, there would have been news of violence and raised militancy in the Ex-FATA region. The post-Soviet war period made this region volatile and dangerous as it became a hub of militant groups including Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and criminals who had fled there from mainland Pakistan. Since the 9/11 incident in the United States in 2001, FATA was a major field of terrorism and militancy.

These militant groups used religion as a source of radicalization by distorting religious teachings and they used violence and indoctrination of young minds from FATA for the dispersal of their ideology. For this, they also established some Madrassahs in the region. Their main objective was not religious education but the brainwashing of the young minds to exploit to further their goals of spreading violence using these young men as suicide bombers.

Post 9/11, Pakistan Army had started series of military operations against terrorist groups in FATA. Many terrorists belonging to different groups were killed while the rest flee to Afghanistan. From Afghanistan, these militants launch attacks on Pakistan’s Military post near the border.

Pakistan Army launched about 10 large and countless small military operations against the Taliban in Ex-FATA. Operation in North Waziristan, Zarb-e-Azb, completely flushed out all the militants. Zarb-e-Azb was followed by Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, to eliminate the menace of terrorism and its support-base in Pakistani society. So far, security forces have carried out hundreds of intelligence-based operations (IBOs) in every nook and corner of the country.

During the reign of terror under militants, FATA faced immense social and cultural crises. Particularly, militants destroyed educational institutions to create spaces for their twisted and violent narrative of Islam. The children were deprived of their rights to education. 1,195 girls’ schools were destroyed by the militants. Society was pushed far away from modernization.

Later on, the combat on terror had critical repercussions on the population in social, economical, cultural, and psychological spheres of life. This explains the suffering of the people of FATA owing to prevailing blemishes in socio-political structures.

In the aftermath of anti-terror operations, FATA is now a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, struggled a lot with the effects of the war on terror. Rehabilitation and repatriation of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) was a mammoth task but the most challenging endeavour was to restore education institutions most of which were converted into their bases by the militants while the remaining were simply destroyed.

Pakistan Army once again took action to regulate education being the backbone of social, political, economic, and cultural progress. They took prompt measures to rebuild the destroyed schools in the regions including Bajur, Orkzai, Kurram, South Waziristan, and North Waziristan. It was realized by the Pakistan Army during the initial stages of military operations that only education can usher a lasting socio-economic and political change in the local mindset. Education provided the youth means to overcome the trauma of war and terror and being able to integrate themselves in the mainstream of Pakistani youth with ample opportunities to excel. Now, due to restored schools and newly built educational institutes, youth in tribal districts is confident and socially aware.

Pakistan Army is carrying out a monitoring role in education and health sectors in tribal districts as new civilian departments are in making after the merger of this region with KPK. The involvement of the armed forces had put a positive impact on the education sector as many parents were hesitant due to past conflicts of terror. As the outcome of the efforts made by the armed forces, the tribal area which was once a battlefield is now on its way to improvement. The restoration of schools and educational institutes is a symbol of advancement. The efforts and measures by the armed forces ushering a social reform and development offered hope to the people of tribal areas.

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Hamnah Rehman

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