Integrating tribal districts

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while presiding over a high level meeting, has expressed firm resolve to integrate the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa through speedy completion of projects of socio-economic uplift and accelerating the pace of work on the reconstruction projects. He directed for the provision of health cards to five hundred thousand families of the merged areas at the end of January. The meeting decided that provincial cabinet, in its monthly meetings, would review progress on development works and introduce reforms in these areas.

There were a number of factors that perpetuated the backwardness of former FATA. The development priorities were skewed due to lack of community participation in development planning and pick and choose policy of political administration and FATA Secretariat. Bulk of the development funds usually got lapsed because of capacity issues of nation building departments and there was also lack of transparency in development expenditure.

The proximity of these areas with Afghan border also impacted its people in regard to the provision civic amenities.The war against the soviet forces in the decade of 1980s and then the war on terror after the 9/11 incident devastated them. The reconstruction work and rehabilitation of displaced people went on with a snail pace during the past three years. As in future the development work at the grass root level is carried out by local bodies’ institutions therefore after the elections to local government institutions the era of skewed priorities will end. However, the establishment of a subordinate judicial system and raising a well trained police force will require huge amount of financial resources. It is not yet clear whether the finances required for putting in place a judicial system at the district and sub divisional level and police force shall be provided in the next NFC award or separate allocations will be made in the next year provincial budget.

The physical infrastructure in the tribal districts is in dilapidated form and its rehabilitation will need special development package. The condition of district level hospitals is also not enviable and direly need equipments and specialist doctors. Likewise the condition of existing schools and colleges need improvement. Female literacy rate is very low and has to be enhanced by opening girls’ schools and colleges.

A prominent new story published on the back page of a leading Urdu daily newspaper that the federal governments has slashed the allocations of development funds that were made by the federal government in the Annual Development Programme for the ex-tribal areas. The axe has fallen on the ongoing schemes in education, health and public health engineering. Before the total mainstreaming, of tribal districts reduction in the amount of allocated financial resources is not justifiable. The decision runs contrary to the announcement of the Prime Minister for diverting more resources to social sector development. The uplift of tribal districts is an uphill task and requires comprehensive strategies and long term plan. The previous practice of adhoc measures will not bring improvement in the life of people.

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