KHAR, Pakistan -- Demonstrating a strong desire for peace and stability, youth in Pakistan's tribal areas, once a safe haven for militancy and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), are joining the army in larger numbers than ever before.
As many as 143 young residents of Bajaur Agency, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), received appointment letters at the end of April to join the security forces.
They will soon have their chance to protect their region and their homeland.
Though exact numbers are not available, in past years, few FATA youth joined the military.
"My whole family and I are happy to join the army, as this will give me a chance to fight for my country against the militants," recruit Suliman Khan of Khar, Bajaur Agency, told Central Asia Online.
Militants have destroyed FATA with their bombings and terrorism, he said, adding that tribal youth yearn to join the army to defeat the miscreants.
Another recruit from FATA, Saida Wahab, 22, said it was his wish to defend his motherland.
"I'm happy that my dream has come true," he said.
"The army's top command is trying to give as many opportunities as possible to the people of FATA to join the army," Frontier Corps (FC) Inspector Gen. and Maj. Gen. Shaheen Mazhar Mahmood told Central Asia Online. "More people from Bajaur Agency will be given the chance to do so in the future."
"Peace has been restored in the agency, and sports and business activities are at full swing here [...] because of the sacrifices of the Bajaur people and soldiers and officers of the army," he said.
Pakistani army recruits tribal youth
The TTP emerged in Bajaur Agency in 2006 and carried out countless atrocities. But in 2008 the Pakistani army launched an offensive against them with full local support, tribal elders said.
In some areas, tribal people even formed local lashkars (militias) to fight the TTP.
Because many youth wished to join security forces, including the army, policy-makers have instituted special recruitment packages for FATA youth.
Last year, 180 Bajaur Agency residents joined the army, officials say. So far this year, 143 Bajaur residents have joined the FC and another two joined the army as commissioned officers after passing the demanding Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Long Course 137.
Having more FATA youth in the army is a welcome move, Said Nazir, defence analyst and senior associate at the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad, said.
He urged the army to found schools and hospitals in FATA.
"The youth of FATA deserve better job and education opportunities, as the people of the area have always been on the forefront of defending the country against hostile forces," he told Central Asia Online.
Bajaur tribal elders support security forces
"Our country has always been safeguarded by security forces, and our youth need to be part of Pakistani forces so they can serve their nation in good form," Maulana Guldad Khan, a Bajaur tribal elder and an outspoken opponent of the TTP, said.
"Militants have destroyed our educational institutions, culture and religious ideology, so we were left with no option but to fight against them along with the army," he told Central Asia Online.
"The only way to mobilise youth in favour of security forces and government is to give them opportunities inside the security forces so they become aware of the forces' ideology and also obtain employment," Khalid Habib, another tribal elder, said.
Bajaur Agency elder Malik Bashak Khan pointed to the numerous sacrifices made by the army and local community in fighting terrorism in recent years, as well as joint efforts to restore peace in FATA.
"We appreciate the army for its efforts to restore peace here," he told Central Asia Online. "We also appreciate the residents of FATA who join the security forces."