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Plight of Pakistani Schools in Militancy-hit Tribal Regions

What will be the future of the youth in the absence of schools and education centers in a militancy-hit Pakistan?

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militancy in pakistan
A man travels on a vehicle laden with his family's belongings on the outskirts of Peshawar in an attempt to flee from the insurgency-hit Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. VOA
  • Insurgency in Pakistan has destroyed most of the public infrastructure, including education institutions
  • Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school
  • Over 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been damaged or fully destroyed by the insurgency in Pakistan

Pakistan, September 4, 2017 : Years of militancy and counterinsurgency operations in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region have destroyed much of the infrastructure, including education centers, in the area.

More than 1,100 girls’ schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is adjacent to the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, have reportedly been damaged or fully destroyed by the decade long insurgency, according to Pakistan government estimates.

While the Pakistani government claims to have rehabilitated around 900 schools, hundreds of schools have not been rebuilt or rehabilitated in FATA.

Experts say the government should take immediate steps to rebuild the destroyed schools in the tribal region.

“Several factors adversely affected education institutions in the tribal region. One factor is the Taliban who destroyed schools and education institutions, particular girls’ schools,” A.H. Nayyar, a Pakistan-based educationist, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Unless the schools are fully rehabilitated, it would be extremely difficult to give hope to the youth in the region.”

“It is important to open the doors of education for tribal youth so that they get the sense that they could achieve a lot in their life, like other citizens, particularly the girls; the government must rehabilitate their schools, utilizing all available resources,” Nayyar said.

Some tribesmen are returning home after more than one million were displaced by Pakistani military operations against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in parts of FATA. According to U.N. estimates, about 95,000 families fled to nearby cities within Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan’s Khost province.

Pakistan’s Army says many areas have been cleared in recent counterinsurgency operations, and it is slowly allowing the displaced tribesmen to return to their home.

U.S. military commanders until recently considered the North Waziristan region in FATA as the “epicenter” of international terrorism. The region has for years served as a training ground for Taliban and other militants groups.

During the past several years, insurgent groups, including TTP, have repeatedly targeted education institutions and schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA region, depriving its younger generation of acquiring education.

Nearly 58 percent of the children between the ages of five and 16 are not in school in Pakhtunkhwa, according to Dawn, a local English language daily. Besides the militancy, extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure are also blamed for the lack of schooling.

Recent statistics by Alif Ailan, an education advocacy organization in Pakistan, show 48 percent of primary and secondary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa operate without adequate physical infrastructure.

Pakistan is 50 years behind in its primary and 60 years behind in secondary education targets, according to a recent United Nations report. The literacy rate in poor rural areas stands at 14 percent for females and 64 percent for males. Nearly seven million Pakistani youth do not attend school. (VOA)

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US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

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US, Taliban, Pakistan
FILE - Taliban political chief Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, in the first row, second from left, Abdul Salam Hanafi and other Taliban officials pray during the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.

A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, center, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Afghan media at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.

Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (3rd L) during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this handout photo released Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.

Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.

President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.

“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.

Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.

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The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.

“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)