One, the Pentagon has already spent $140 billon in Afghanistan and is now incurring a bill of just under $1 billion a month. Two, Commander Baitullah Mehsud has been named in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Three, Newsweek has labelled Baitullah Mehsud as being “more dangerous than Osama bin Laden”. Four, Baitullah Mehsud is in FATA, and if the CIA is to be believed, Osama is also in the vicinity. Five, FATA is the hatchery of terror plots that unfold in Europe and FATA also presents a ‘clear and present danger’ to America.
Six, on May 22, General David Petraeus, the Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, said that the “next 9/11 to come from FATA.” Seven, on April 12, President Bush, in an interview with ABC News, described FATA as “one of the most dangerous areas in the world… where Al Qaeda had established safe haven and was plotting attacks against the United States” adding that “Pakistan and not Afghanistan or Iraq is now the most likely place where a plot could be hatched to carry out any 9/11-type attack in the US”
Eight, direct overt US aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2009, have amounted to $12.277 billion. Nine, on March 11, Malik Naveed Khan was appointed NWFP inspector general of police (IGP). He has been the commandant Frontier Constabulary, joint director-general Intelligence Bureau (IB), SP Mansehra, SP Peshawar, DIG Crimes Sindh and DIG Hazara range.
Malik Naveed Khan has something America doesn’t; a strategy to win over FATA. America has something Malik Naveed Khan doesn’t; billions to lose. Why can’t the two work together and save Pakistan along the way?
FATA has some 3.3 million residents. Malik Naveed Khan’s strategy proposes the hiring of 300,000 FATA residents, one male from every FATA family, at Rs5,000 a month. That would cost America a paltry $22 million a month or under $300 million a year.
Nothing new, really. America has done it before. Some 75 years ago, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation had established a Civilian Conservation Crops (CCC). Under the Programme, the Labour Department hired up to 500,000 unemployed men and the US Army opened up more than 4,000 camps all over the US. The army provided 3,000 reserve officers as camp directors and the Office of Education gave each camp an education officer. Salary was fixed at $30 a month. There was work in the morning and classes plus sports in the evening. The programme lasted for nine years costing $3 billion.
I say America should hire one male and one female from every FATA family. Let Pakistan Army officers — majors or below — run 700 camps, 10 camps in every Tribal Agency. For males, work plus classes. For females, classes only. That shall cost America around $500 million a year.
I volunteer to be the administrator of the funds with a guarantee that at least half the funds will reach FATA — and that’s better than most American-financed NGOs can offer.
In 1942, the US Congress ceased funding the CCC but in 1976 the governor of California established the California Conservation Corps. In 1985, some two-dozen corps directors got together and established The Corps Network that engages “youth and young adults (ages 16-25) in full-time community service, training and educational activities.” There are at least three other still functional corps, namely the Monatana Conservation Corps, Washington Conservation Crops and Minnesota Conservation Corps.
Wait, there’s more that can be done. Bajaur, Mohamand, Khyber, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan have a total of 11 colleges with less than 5,000 students. Kohi Sher Haider Khyber, Sadda Kurram, Parachinar Kurram, GDC Wana and GDC Ladda don’t even have a single student bus. Buy them each a student bus or two. Take the faculty and students to Washington. Show them what America is all about. Convert the 5,000 students into ambassadors of peace, emissaries of enlightenment, missionaries of harmony and messengers of tranquillity. Let Petraeus add two coalition brigades but start out an educational radio too. Let this decision of renting FATA be ‘Uncurious George’s’ parting decision. The ‘Decider-in-Chief’ has decided little else let him rent out FATA for an annual rent that amounts to what the US spends in Afghanistan in two weeks.
PS: an intelligent FATA resident once told me that FATA residents cannot be bought but they can be rented.
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: email@example.com
Source: The News, 22/6/2008