Habib Malik Orakzai is the Founder and Chairman of Mutahidda Qabail Party (MQP), the first political party to represent and serve the tribal people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan next to Afghanistan. He is President of Pakistan’s International Human Rights Organization (PIHRO) and is also a member of the Advisory Board of the World Security Network Foundation (WSN). In his discussion with Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann,  Founder of GLOBALO, he explores the current situation of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Hubertus Hoffmann: How dangerous is the situation now in Pakistan’s tribal areas (FATA)?

Habib Malik Orakzai: Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) had been peaceful before 9/11. The ongoing insurgency is not a local phenomenon; rather things have spilled over into Pakistan from across its Western borders where American and Allied Forces have drastically failed from 2001 to 2015 in achieving many of their stated targets.

NATO and America had launched many military operations without informing Pakistani authorities and this has resulted in foreign militants being pushed into Pakistani areas. Youths in the area are quick to join the militants, which is one of the main reasons that FATA is underdeveloped. The region possesses scarce social services and virtually no job opportunities, despite the territory having vast potential for development, particularly in the mineral sector.

For immediate and long-term peace and development in the region, dialogue should precede military action. The national strategy about the “War on Terror” itself needs a review and the development potential of FATA needs to be exploited. Today, FATA is being labelled as a cause and centre of militancy by many, not only in Pakistan but also in the entire region.

While the Afghan government and the international community are blaming Pakistan for providing a safe haven to militants in its tribal belt, the government of Pakistan believes that the growing number of suicide attacks and other violent incidents have their roots in this area. While the international community and global media are describing FATA as the cause of instability in the region, most people in the country, and even outside believe otherwise. That is, it is basically the consequence of the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

HH: What do the people in FATA need most?

HMO: The population of FATA is 7 million and the most important thing is to understand the entire situation properly. Seeing FATA in isolation and not in the context of the Afghan war would not lead us to the right conclusions. One has to have a comprehensive approach; FATA is not to be separated from the big picture, as doing so will only lead to superficial results. A comprehensive approach means addressing the problem regionally with the aim of resolving this problem in Afghanistan, FATA and the rest of Pakistan.

Democracy and institutions need to be strengthened and encouraged and political solutions have to be found. For FATA, the most important step is to bring the area into national mainstream. Administrative and political problems of FATA need to be resolved; particularly the colonial system of administration needs to be reorganized.

Substantial socioeconomic developments are needed at this time. A Sustainable Development Plan needs to be supported. Education has to become the top priority, and the deficiency of teachers must be dealt with immediately. Job opportunities for the youth of the area should be created. The potential of mineral sector awaits exploration.

Military operations should be launched against specific targets but only on the information of credible intelligence sources in order to avoid collateral damage and alienating the people. Air strikes/drone attacks are not favored at all, whether from outside or within the country, as these only alienate the people and cause tremendous damage.

Dialogue needs to be encouraged. Tribesmen should be taken on-board as their support is required. Talks should also be held with the militants in a meaningful manner. In this connection, Pakistan needs to take independent decisions and resist pressure from outside.

HH: How important is education for the young people?

HMO: Education is of great importance and it plays a pivotal role in development. The young generation is our future. Hence, it is our duty to provide them with quality education. The main reason behind the situation in FATA is lack of education; so you can understand the importance of education.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the World Security Network (WSN) for offering scholarships to the young students from FATA. However, I would like to request donors and other organizations to provide special scholarships to the talented students from FATA.

HH: Please tell us about your new FATA party, what are your aims and how can one reach it?

HMO: Mutahidda Qabail Party (MQP) is a newly launched party struggling for the fundamental and political rights of the residents of FATA, who have been deprived since Pakistan came into being. The party was launched in order to initiate the struggle for:

– The restoration of peace in Tribal Areas

– Attainment of basic human rights of tribesmen and tribeswomen

– Economic & social development of the area

– Extension of laws to FATA

– Declare FATA as a separate province in Pakistan.

Since the inception of the country, successive governments have never bothered to give due rights to tribesmen. The huge funds allocated for the uplift of Fata have also not been spent on development of the neglected areas.

Being the first political party for the people of FATA, we have been welcomed by the locality and they are joining our party. I am sure that in the next election MQP will play its role for the people of tribal areas and win victory over corrupt and selfish parliamentarians.

HH: What can the U.S., Europe or the Islamic World do to help and improve the situation in FATA?

HMO: The international community should give proper attention to the tribal areas of Pakistan. Development projects should be started with immediate effect, and locality should inform the development process. Special focus should be given to education and institutions should be constructed at the agency level. Employment opportunities should be provided to the residents of tribal areas of Pakistan on an equal basis.