PESHAWAR -- As FATA University prepares to start its second academic year in September, many hope the institution will bring an end to illiteracy, extremism and other social evils in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
"This institution will play a pivotal role in ending illiteracy and extremism and will ensure development in the tribal areas," FATA University Vice Chancellor Tahir Shah told Pakistan Forward.
FATA needs more educational institutions, especially in remote areas, so that every resident obtains basic education, he said.
Shah was selected as vice chancellor in January 2016. The university started its first academic session that September.
The first cohort of 72 students completed its second semester in early June 2017, Shah said, adding that the cohort is comprised of all male students.
"We welcome any female student who wants to seek admission in FATA University," Shah said, adding that the university has one female faculty member who teaches mathematics.
Expanding FATA University
FATA University is temporarily housed in a portion of the Government Degree College Dara Adamkhel on the Indus Highway from Peshawar to Kohat while work is under way on the university's new campus.
The new campus, which is under construction, will be situated on an area of 466 kanals (58.25 acres) in Akhurwal, Dara Adamkhel. It is expected to be completed under a five-year programme.
"The response is overwhelming, and we expect applications from a large number of students from across the tribal areas and settled districts in the second academic session," Shah said.
"Currently students are enrolled in management science, mathematics, sociology and political science, while admission in the second session will also be available in English, sciences and education," he said.
FATA's Higher Education Commission in mid-2016 approved a budget of Rs. 1.6 billion ($15.2 million) for the new campus and other facilities of FATA University.
The FATA Secretariat has set up a project management unit to supervise and complete the first phase of construction on campus.
Under the FATA University Regulations of 2013, another Rs 4.7 billion ($44.6 million) will be spent on the campus in the second phase.
"We will establish sub-campuses of the FATA University in all the agencies, and in the first phase the post-graduate colleges in North Waziristan, Bajaur and Khurram Agency will be declared local campuses," Shah said.
Though the academic session had already begun in September, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch formally inaugurated FATA University last December.
"This university will spread education and prosperity all over the tribal areas that need peace and development," Jhagra said after visiting the institution in December.
"Work is going on in full swing on the new campus that is to be completed in five years under the plan," Khalid Meenawar, FATA University's spokesman, told Pakistan Forward.
"The process of recruiting more students, launching classes in three new programmes, arranging transport and equipping laboratories is going on," he said.
Education key to ending extremism
Many tribe members have appreciated the establishment of the university exclusively for tribal areas.
"The previous governments and those who have made efforts for the establishment of FATA University have done a great service to hundreds of thousands of tribesmen who need education more than any other facility," Ahmad Jan Wazir from South Waziristan told Pakistan Forward.
More educational opportunities will ensure more jobs, development, improved health and other facilities, he said.
"Education is the key to bringing an end to most of the problems faced by the tribes, especially extremism and violence in FATA," he said.
The university will prove to be a milestone in the development of the tribal areas, said Yar Mohammad, a teacher from Khyber Agency.
"We badly needed a better higher educational institution like FATA University, and we need more schools and colleges everywhere in FATA," he told Pakistan Forward.