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First University Set To Open In Restive Pakistani Tribal Region

Some faculty members of the newly opened FATA University.
Some faculty members of the newly opened FATA University.

The first-ever institution of higher education is set to open in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal areas, where tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced by Taliban violence and military operations since 2004.

On October 21, Mohammad Tahir Shah, vice chancellor of FATA University, told Radio Mashaal that classes at the new university will commence on October 24.

"This is the first-ever university for FATA since 1947, the year when Pakistan came into being,” Shah said.

FATA is an acronym for Federally Administered Tribal Areas, an arcing territory of 27,000 square kilometers along Afghanistan’s border in northwestern Pakistan.

An estimated 7 million to 10 million people -- predominantly members of numerous Pashtun tribes -- live in the region. Their homeland in an economic and political backwater with some of the country’s worse development indicators.

Shah said the university will provide an opportunity for thousands of FATA students to work toward degrees in business, mathematics, political science, sociology, and other natural and social sciences.

He said four faculties have already been established in the first phase at a college in Dara Adam Khel, a region is close to the major northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. The town, known for its unlicensed armed manufacturing factories, is a midway point between the seven FATA districts north and south of Peshawar.

"We hired professors and other staff to start teaching management sciences, sociology, mathematics, and political science in the initial phase," he said.

Shah says the university will also open campuses in various FATA districts such as Bajaur, Kurram, and North Waziristan.

All FATA districts suffered under the decade-long insurgency that began in 2004. Tens of thousands of civilians, militants, and soldiers were killed in the subsequent decade, which also saw more than 3 million civilians displaced.

FATA is still the one of most underdeveloped regions in Pakistan, with literacy levels under 25 percent for men and below 10 percent for women. The region’s population is dependent on nearby Pakistani cities for education.

The university was first approved in 2013. Its opening is being seen as a sign that peace is slowly returning to FATA.