PESHAWAR: As active combat operations are reaching their ultimate end, the Army has assumed the monitoring role in education and health sectors in Fata, insist multiple sources.
A relevant official confided to Dawn that political agents had received letters from the Corps Headquarters Peshawar informing them that monitoring teams of the army would visit schools, colleges and health centres to compile data of teachers, students, doctors, supporting staff and missing facilities.
He said the letters were issued in May and that teams had been constituted for every tribal agency.
The official also insisted the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force in the region, had been given that task in some areas.
Security official insists initiative to assist civil administration in tribal agencies
Thousands of troops, both regular and paramilitary, were deployed across Fata in 2002 and thereafter to fight the Taliban militants.
Besides tactical operations, the Army was also engaged in the reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in areas cleared of militants.
It hasn’t been ascertained whether the initiative was taken by the army or the KP governor has requested the relevant military authorities to intervene in Fata’s social sector. The media wing of the Governor’s House did not offer comment, while Fata additional chief secretary and social sector secretary were not available despite repeated calls.
However, a security official confirmed the involvement of the army units in monitoring of schools and health facilities, saying employees were getting salaries but didn’t perform duty.
“These are local arrangements to assist civil administrations in tribal agencies,” he said, adding that the process was initiated from North and South Waziristan agencies, where troops were already engaged in rehabilitation work.
The social sector, especially healthcare and education, in the area are in dwindling position and has nothing to do with militancy.
Recently, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra hinted at giving monitoring role to the army after receiving complaints about poor quality of work and corruption in development schemes in the region, which is largely believed to be a ‘black hole.’
“The Army and FC teams have been visiting schools and colleges independently after the notification and will carry on their job for indefinite period,” said the official.
“This is a continuous process, which is part of efforts to mainstream tribal areas,” he said.
The official said sometimes, the Army also sought cooperation from the relevant agency education officers.
He said the monitors would submit their respective reports to the relevant commandants or brigade commanders.
A teacher at a school near Parachinar, Kurram Agency, said an army captain along with soldiers recently visited his school, collected data of staff and students, and asked about shortage of basic facilities.
Apart from hundreds of health centres, Fata has 5,572 schools with 574,512 boys and girls enrolled there.
Around 500 schools for boys and girls were closed down recently under the rationalisation plan being executed in health and livestock sectors, too.
Fata has separate directorates for education and health working under the umbrella of social sector department at the Civil Secretariat Fata in Peshawar.
Every tribal agency has an education officer and surgeon dealing with day-to-day affairs in these two sectors under the supervision of political agents.
In addition, a governor’s team also exists to carry out inspection of facilities of all sectors in Fata.
Another official said a plan was under consideration to appoint monitors to check attendance of teachers, students and other activities in educational institutions across tribal region.
Despite the presence of huge network of directorates and other relevant organisations, the government has given additional task to the army to start monitoring in education and health sectors.
Interestingly, the relevant directorates and departments maintain data of attendance, dropouts, shortage of trained staffs and missing facilities every year and now the army as well FC would do the same exercise.
The official said before starting monitoring process, the army had distributed proformas asking the relevant offices to provide details about missing facilities in schools and health centers.
He admitted absenteeism in educational institutions and health centers and shortage of essential facilities.
“The intervention of the army may put positive impact on education and health sectors because it has plenty of resources compared to the civil administrations in the area,” he said.