Modena, ITALY – On January 20, 2021 Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan launched 3G and 4G broadband services in South Waziristan region to dramatically improve internet connectivity. He made the announcement during the Kamyab Jawan program ceremony in Wana, the largest city in the region. During his speech, he explained why, in his opinion, an adequate internet connection did not previously exist in the region. Khan cited “security concerns” due to conflicts with India as the main reason for the lack of connectivity.
Khan’s administration aims to uplift people living in areas that have been left behind, as he mentioned. South Waziristan is one such region. Formerly the haunt of the militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), South Waziristan is located in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwest Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one of seven districts previously known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). These are the border areas of Afghanistan that were governed by the Border Crime Regulation, not Pakistani laws, from 1947 to 2018. Pakistani laws did not apply and national law enforcement agencies could not operate in the region. As a result, the activists were able to thrive for years.
In 2007, Pakistan launched a series of military operations to regain control of tribal areas from TTP militants. In May 2018, the Pakistani government merged the tribal areas with neighboring Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Difficulties without the Internet and the digital gender gap
The past violence has deeply affected the development of the region, in particular as regards the education of young people. A student activist from Waziristan, Assad Ullah, told Digital Rights Monitor in July 2020: “In my whole village, I am the only one who has access to a DSL broadband connection, and even then the network itself. is generally very irregular. “
Without internet connectivity, many residents of this region have also remained largely unaware of developments around the pandemic and lockdowns. A lack of internet connectivity also misses job opportunities. It is difficult to find job posting information on time and even when one manages to get information about vacancies, poor web access hinders the ability of people to submit applications ahead of deadlines.
Due to COVID-19, many students have returned to their hometowns following the closure of universities and hostels. Upon their return, they had to deal with the lack of internet accessibility, preventing many from attending online classes. Additionally, with limited internet connectivity, males tend to prefer to use most of the bandwidth. Women are often prevented from using the public Internet because it is not allowed under certain customs and traditions. Families often control women’s access to the Internet and strictly restrict the use of technology.
In Wana, Khan used relief programs to help alleviate the problems. He distributed checks to successful applicants for the Kamyab Jawan program and the youth internship program. He also distributed checks to low-income women under the Ehsaas Kafalat program.
The Kamyab Jawan program is a loan program for young entrepreneurs and existing businesses between 21 and 45 years old (18 years for the IT sector). It provides subsidized financing under the direction and supervision of the State Bank of Pakistan. Pakistan with a monthly allowance of Rs 2000 (around $ 12.45)). The program also provides women with appropriate bank accounts. This initiative also aims to provide increased access to smartphones for women as a step towards digital inclusion.
As of January 20, 2021, 3G and 4G broadband internet connectivity is available in southern Waziristan. This represents a long-awaited advance for the inhabitants of this region and one of the major demands of the region’s youth. Easier access to education is beneficial for the development of the region and ensures a better quality of life for grassroots communities. High-speed internet connectivity will also help prevent further communication and keep the rural area abreast of relevant news, such as the pandemic and future crises.
– Harini Manisha Talagala Photo: Flickr
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