Monitoring jobs fraught with internal resistance, external danger in FATA

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Recent years have seen an alarming number of attacks against government employees in the tribal belt – the perils they face are ever present and immediate.

In October 2011 Masood Kausar, then Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor, visited Orakzai Agency. Upon his arrival at Kalaya, militants fired missiles at his helicopter, on the landing pad where tribesmen and officials waited to greet the governor. There were no fatalities but the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Secretariat’s Monitoring and Evaluation department (M&E) directors, Abdul Khaliq Khan, Imran Gulzar and their colleague Dr Iqbal Rahim sustained severe injuries.

Khan was struck by shrapnel on his right leg. Gulzar and Dr Rahim suffered head trauma. Later it became apparent Khan, who had lost a lot of blood, would need to have his leg amputated. Surgeons had to remove a piece of Gulzar’s skull to reduce intracranial pressure. Dr Rahim was perhaps the most affected — he fell into a coma in which he remains to this day.

While others would have been too traumatised to come back after such tragedy, both Khan and Gulzar soon returned to their posts of director Green and director Infrastructure. Gulzar narrated his ordeal to The Express Tribune with pride. “Of course, such a display of dedication might seem rare in contrast to the typical view  people have of bureaucracy.”

The Fata M&E department is anything but bureaucratic, he added.

This small yet highly essential arm of the Fata Secretariat is fraught with difficulties and requires a certain perseverance to operate successfully. The M&E directorate was formed in 2006 to oversee and audit various projects and departments. With the increase in development work in Fata, M&E has gone from an almost perfunctory institution to an integral one — from monitoring 85 projects in its first year to 702 as of 2012.

Monitoring and evaluation is a “thankless job,” said Gulzar, in addition to the obvious danger of working in the tribal areas, there is internal resistance towards the M&E directorate.

According to Gulzar, departments being scrutinised are often quite reluctant and antagonistic towards the M&E, making the job all the more difficult. M&E Deputy Director Education Rukhsana Aziz is another dedicated employee.

As a woman she faces additional security risks. However, Aziz has travelled throughout Fata many times — against the warnings of local authorities — to observe and report on various projects and schools.

“Being from Fata, I have always wanted to make sure the tribal children really get educated.”

And the efforts of the M&E department have borne fruit. In 2011 and 2012, 246 absent teachers and 10 maternity workers were identified, while 21 non-functioning institutions have been closed down, Aziz said.

Talking about the efficacy of the monitoring department, Director General Mohammed Sajjad Khan candidly stated in Pashto, “M&E in Fata is no joke.” Khan claimed, not without pride, the department “really made its presence known with those it monitors — it has real nuisance value”.

Khan said prior to the creation of an M&E department, “professional-level work never existed” in Fata.

The planning and development of projects was “slapdash”. More importantly, with few or no follow-ups, projects would ultimately fail. But with M&E, project designs are instituted and, wherever needed, the department steps in to make the necessary corrections, noted Khan.

Marsikhel Dam in North Waziristan and the Kharo Shah Dam in Bajaur are such examples — the contracting parties were penalised for delays and reparations made to the Fata Planning and Development department.

Similarly, for nearly 10 years Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) did not provide transformers to nearly 450 schemes in Fata. After the M&E department intervened, the schemes received the transformers they had paid for.

The director general asserted M&E has had a ‘spillover’ effect, making other Fata and provincial departments adopt M&E practices and seek training from them.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.