Rebuilding Swat

Rebuilding the region

There might be big plans for reconstruction on paper, the situation on the ground does not look impressive — at least for the time being

By Tahir Ali

(The News 27-09-09)

Massive funds are needed for the reconstruction of most parts of the Malakand division hit hard by the Taliban-led militancy. But the project is yet to take off as the international community seems least enthusiastic.

The rich Muslim Gulf states have been particularly lying back in this respect. The United States has contributed the most with $281 million so far, but that too mostly for the earlier, relief phase.

There might be impressive plans for rebuilding the region on paper, the situation on the ground does not look impressive — at least for the time being. The government is said to have prepared a comprehensive reconstruction and development plan for the region. But its implementation could start only when sufficient funds are available and law and order improves.

A UN official recently said that only three percent of the $58 million needed for rehabilitation of the IDPs and 17 percent of funds required to rebuild the 411 schools had been confirmed.

“Foreign aid agencies are still waiting for the green signal to start work in the area due to security issues. Foreign donors are reluctant to offer assistance for global credit crunch, lack of an authoritative reconstruction plan, want of transparency and trust deficit,” says a local aid worker.

Jacob J Lew, US Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, however, did praise the NWFP chief minister for “a very good sense of his needs, his limitations and for his capacity to partner quite effectively.”

Pakistan’s rehabilitation plan for Malakand, of about $2.5 billion, was approved by the Friends of democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting in Turkey but no cash inflows followed.

NWFP senior minister Rahimdad Khan hopes the September 25 meeting of the FoDP in USA will entail generous assistance for the Malakand reconstruction plan.

For some it is rather premature to talk of the reconstruction phase when the provision of return package of Rs 25,000 through ATM cards — part of the earlier relief phase — is yet to complete.

“There is only one ATM issuance centre in Mardan for the IDPs. Most people returned home without payments. ATM centres should be opened in Swat and Buner,” says a worker.

Rahimdad Khan says the Frontier has earmarked Rs 2 billion while the federal government Rs 50 billion for rehabilitation phase to offset any delay in foreign assistance. “Another development plan for Swat worth Rs 4 billions has been approved. We should be able to compensate the area people for maize crop which was not allowed for security reasons. We shall also be giving Rs 0.3 or 0.12 million for rebuilding of homes.”

In case the donors fail to fulfil their pledges, Khan says, the entire annual development programme of NWFP will be diverted and utilised for the reconstruction of the area.

According to him, MD will be developed into a model division. “Several mega projects such as the double road from Dargai to Mingora, the Malakand tunnel and the setting up of a Cadet College as well as the National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC) have been approved for MD.”

The government, he claims, intended to pay Rs 25,000 return package to over 0.3 million registered families, “but there are also thousands of families who left their homes late and were registered. Many others didn’t leave their homes either.”

He says the Prime Minister has announced a package of Rs 2 billion to provide return assistance to the newly registered 53,000 families. The federal government has released Rs 6 billion out of Rs 24 billion approved for strengthening of police force and the Frontier Constabulary in NWFP. “The police force shall be doubled and police stations increased in Swat.”

The main focus of reconstruction efforts would be strengthening of administrative structure, revamping justice system, improving service delivery and socio-economic growth. Army should supplement the reconstruction efforts of the local administration.

Malakand Division boasted 23 technical and vocational institutes. By reviving these and creating more opportunities for skill training and education of the young and the women, the socio-economic situation of the region can be improved. Besides, the whole lot of people who have developed different mental ailments as a result of shock must be provided proper treatment.

Swat earlier had 30 health facilities that are now either partially or totally damaged. The shortage of gynaecologists, medical officers and lady health workers in MD remains to be helped.

The future of some 40,000 youngsters who were studying in over 1,000 seminaries in the area, should be secured.

Local industries like tourism, horticulture and livestock should be revived. NWFP should be declared a war-hit zone. It must be given a relief package soon as promised by the federal government last month.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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