I am generally skeptical about foreign funded programs as our history shows that aid has often been mismanaged or misappropriated. This is why I always take ambitious sounding development programs with a pinch of salt. The other day I stumbled upon this website (http://www.aitebaar.org/), and inquired details from Raza Rumi, who gave me further information about this program. He also sounded a little cynical as always, but was still hopeful that due to the renewed focus on good governance and peace building in FATA by the major political parties of the country, perhaps there was room to contribute through this project.
“AITEBAAR is a Peacebuilding Support to the Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA) Programme, which is a DFID, funded initiative implemented in close collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and FATA Secretariat. The programme will, over the next four years, aim to strengthen the governance systems in FATA through work towards achieving priority PCNA reforms.”
I found these two components particularly interesting:
1) The first component addresses the need to foster a shared understanding of citizens’ priorities and amongst stakeholders by producing policy-relevant research. Apart from conducting different Knowledge, Attitudes and Perception (KAP) research, AITEBAAR will work in collaboration with the FATA Secretariat to generate one FATA wide Development Indicators Household Survey as well as annual FATA wide perception surveys (2014-16).
2) The second component aims to strengthen government security and justice institutions at the level of the FATA Secretariat, the Political Agent, and the Assistant Political Agent at sub-divisional level, while also building government responsiveness mechanisms and raising public awareness on rights.
AITEBAAR focuses on a three-fold output plan. The first, as outlined above, intends to strengthen governance in FATA through interventions that will be supported by community mobilization and media strands to facilitate an effective dialogue between government and citizens. The second proposed output is the strengthening of rule of law in KP, through consultations with the KP government and other stakeholders. Empowering citizens to demand better justice services and enhancing the management of those services through improvement of institutional planning, delivery and accountability mechanisms will lead to improved access to appropriate, effective and equitable policing and justice services. AITEBAAR projects aim to strengthen police investigations, and introduce community and gender responsive policing among the people of KP. Bridging the gap between citizens and the state through effective two-way communications is the third proposed output. AITEBAAR will work to build trust between citizens and the state through institutionalizing improved communications, by strengthening institutions and by increasing citizen awareness and voice.
In the run-up to the May 11 general elections, the issue of peace and stability in FATA was brought up by the forerunning political parties. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said on several occasions that the people of FATA, who have rendered untold sacrifices for Pakistan, are his greatest strength. PTI has maintained the stance that establishing peace in FATA is its top priority as there cannot be stability in the country without it.
In a similar vein, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Chairman Mian Nawaz Sharif wants his party to focus on the progress of FATA. Sharif said that the people of FATA are playing a significant role in the development of Pakistan, and the PML-N government would focus on the development and progress of the area as a top priority.
I think it is a big challenge for donors and the government to prove they can fix the issues of FATA, and work towards a substantive effort to improve how things are functioning at the grassroots level. Until we rebuild trust for the state among the people of FATA, no military operation can succeed. Although I did not vote for PTI in this election, most parties, including PML-N, want to give peace a chance. Let’s hope our government implements this program with their full focus rather than treating it as just another aid project.