Merged districts, a foster child

Merged districts, a foster child

Even after merger with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, tribal districts of former FATA are not getting a fair deal in the release of development funds. The Senate Standing Committee on SAFRON was told that under the Annual Development Programme (ADP), the government released 36 billion rupees out of 83 billion, which was promised by the government.  The parliamentary committee was informed that Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government allocated 11 billion rupees under the Accelerated Implementation Plan (AIP) programme for various merged districts but did not release the amount for starting the development projects.

The main objective of merger of tribal districts was to accelerate the pace of socio economic uplift in these districts. For this purpose an ambitious 10years Plan of 100 billion rupees had been chalked out and it was decided to allocate 3 percent share of funds in the next NFC Award. In the war against global terrorism, the areas of former FATA have been badly affected. The operation against militant outfits has displaced large number people from every district. The return and rehabilitation of IDPs of tribal districts needs to be done on priority basis. This will be possible only when funds are released for the implementation of AIP.

The road infrastructure in the merged districts needs improvement and expansion. Primary healthcare system has to be established and the secondary health service has to be upgraded. Construction of small storage dams on the potential sites is inventible to promote small farming, forestry and other related economic activities.

Induction of new technologies for the exploration of mineral and their production is all the more necessary. As in the near future the merged districts will serve as gateway for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian States, Tribal areas Chamber of Commerce and Industry had agitated the issue of improving and upgrading power transmission and distribution system to boost industry and trade in these areas. The rationale behind this demand was to exploit the exotic mineral resources of tribal areas such as marble, granite soapstone and others by setting up industries manufacturing value added products for exports. In addition to the mineral reserves, tribal districts have great potential for fruits processing industry. It was due to this comparative advantage that a long term industrial plan had been put in place in 2006, titled “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) which could not be implemented at time because of security reasons. Industrialisation in mineral resources rich merged district would need expansion and improvement of road infrastructure and electricity transmission system.

There is not a single teaching level hospital in the merged tribal districts. The previously established Agency Headquarter Hospitals of former FATA aeras are not even at par with District Headquarter Hospitals of settled districts in health infrastructure, availability of specialist doctors and trained paramedical staff. A former governor of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Lt. General (R) Iftikhar Hussain Shah had brought some improvement in health facilities of these hospitals by posting specialist doctors, providing equipment and introducing Institution Based Practice for doctors in the second shift. However, over the past 12 years the health services system in the hospitals of tribal district has deteriorated to greater extent.

The present provincial government had finalised an upgradation plan of hospitals in tribal districts in March, the implementation process of which could not be started due to dearth of developmental funds for the upgradation of district and tehsil level hospitals. It merits mention that primary healthcare system in the shape of basic health units and category-D hospitals is non-existent there. For the provision of outdoor medical facilities at door step has been made available in 1980s to the people through Primary Healthcare System in the settled districts. Why the people in merged districts should remain deprived of this facility?

The share of federal government in the quantum of funds for the ADP of merged districts is almost double of share of province. Hence the Senate Standing Committee has rightly shown concern over the neglecting approach of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government towards the uplift of merged districts. It is also incumbent upon the Provincial Assembly members, who have been elected from the merged districts, to raise voice against the injustice being done to the people of their constituencies.

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