Press Release, August 22
Lahore: The participants of a national consultation organized by Awaz Foundation Pakistan and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Friday demanded the government pay immediate attention to alleviating the problems faced by the people of the Provincially Administered Tribal Area in southern Punjab.
The themes for discussion at the consultation included the social, economic and political rights in PATA; the government’s responsibility to ensure basic rights to all without discrimination; its failure to integrate the area with the settled area since the creation of Pakistan; political parties’ responsibility to ensure representation of honest and competent people; and possibilities for ensuring opportunities for the area that are available elsewhere in the country.
The participants said the tribal area of DG Khan and Rajanpur in southern Punjab is the least developed region in Pakistan. DG Khan and Rajanpur are at the bottom of the national and Punjab quality-wise scale, but the PATA area contagious to the two districts is even more deprived.
The discussion was conducted on the basis of extensive studies done by Awaz Foundation Pakistan. Following the consultation, the assembly called upon the government to:
- immediately create a Punjab PATA Development authority to look at the PATA infrastructure, including roads;
- that the Ministry of Women Development should ensure its presence in the area to ensure that the issue facing women are addressed;
- appoint special education officers to the area to ensure a specific focus on women education as the current measures for that have failed;
- withdraw the Frontier Crimes Regulation from the area;
- consider replacing the Border Military Police with a more responsible police force;
- abolish the influence of Sardars;
- establish a Fort Munroe Development Authority to develop the hill station, which offers the same climate as Murree, and can provide employment opportunities to the area’s population;
- assign a separate development body to monitor and ensure environmental standards in PATA areas of southern Punjab, especially threats of environmental degradation due to oil exploration and extraction, uranium and other mining and operations of a large cement plant in the area;
- build small dams and revise local water conservation projects on modern basis to not only avoid the damage caused by floods and hill torrents but also ensure regular irrigation for agriculture;
- launch a crash programme to ensure that the overwhelming majority of schools in the area that are not functioning become operative;
- ensure that all government institutions created to address the area’s problems have participation of and input from the local community in the decision-making process.
- ensure the allocation of financial resources to improve the lot of the people there and the infrastructure in the area;
- ensure that with extremist elements trying to get a foothold in the area, Talibanisation does not fill the vacuum created by lack of effective governance.
- ensure that the industrial and mining concerns being run in the area translate into employment opportunities for the local population as well.
The assembly particularly requested:
- The cement and mining companies in the area and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to undertake their corporate social responsibility to ensure that their operations do not cause environmental degradation;
- The political leaders in the area to ensure, that besides promoting themselves politically, they also make sure that the areas’ problems are addressed.
Background info on the PATA area:
Rich with mineral resources, including uranium, PATA — consisting of the tribal area of D.G. Khan and Rajanpur — is by far the most neglected and backward part of Pakistan. Because of its administrative structure, feudal / tribal customs persist in which tribal chiefs and elders have the authority to disputes, whether evidence is available or not. Private jails are not uncommon.
Tribal chiefs enjoy the de facto right to represent people by virtue of their status. Only in a few areas are women allowed to cast their vote. Generally male relatives cast votes on behalf of the family’s women.
The fate of the people of PATA has remained largely unchanged since the creation of Pakistan. The main change in the last few decades has been exploration for oil and gas, and extraction of iron, gypsum and uranium from the area. This has brought little benefit or employment opportunities to the local people. They have, however, paid a steep price for that discovery. Drilling and mining operations have polluted groundwater, rendering it unusable. People are either forced to consume polluted water or use rainwater from ponds used by cattle.
Lack of roads and transportation has deprived people of education, health and employment opportunities. Even obvious income-generation avenues, such as developing potential for tourism, have not materialized for want of roads and of political will.
Vani, Karo Kari, exchange of women in marriage, Kala Kali and the sale of women declared Kali is commonplace. Almost 100 percent women in the eight Tummans of DG Khan and Rajanpur suffer from anaemia.