Khyber Pukhtunkhwa cabinet approved on Thursday an ambitious 10 years development plan for the socio-economic uplift of the merged tribal districts with a total outlay of over 100 billion rupees. To finance this plan, the KPK government will contribute its share of Rs. 10.18 billion, federal government Rs.54billion and government of Punjab Rs.38 billion from their allocations under National Finance Commission. It would have been better if the PPP government in Sindh has also contributed its share because it was the leadership of this party which earnestly initiated the process of reforms in former FATA. Sindh province generates 60 percent of national revenue and its commitment for financial contribution to the uplift of tribal districts would have given a message of strong national cohesion.
After the election on Provincial Assembly seats and local bodies’ polls, the process of development planning and execution of projects of people’s welfare will get a new dimension which will help reverse the hitherto pursued lopsided development strategies in the tribal districts. There will be then greater chances of community participation in the selection and approval of developmental schemes.
The newly merged districts have a great potential of increasing production in agriculture, forestry, livestock, and fisheries. At present bulk of the water from mountain streams and rains goes waste. It can be conserved in small storage dam like the Azakhel dam in Peshawar district. The storage dams can contribute in a big way to food autarky in these areas by making irrigation water availability fore growing cereals, vegetables and fruits and promoting livestock and diary farming.
The tribal districts have rich reserves of minerals like marble, granite and soap stone. Mining is still done by applying primitive methods and lease licenses are being given to contractors without legally binding them to use modern mining technology in accordance with the provisions of mineral policy to avoid the colossal waste of precious minerals. This aspect of mining should no longer be neglected. For the utilisation of minerals in the export quality value added products a plan of industrial development had been worked out under the nomenclature of “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” in 2006. The plan needs revival for setting up small industrial estates. These districts are usually the worst hit by power outages and for industrial development small and micro hydel power stations need to be set up while constructing small dams. In the industrial estates agro-based industries can also flourish in addition to the ones for mineral processing and its products.
The condition of health and education facilities in these arreas is far from satisfactory. The district and subdivision level hospitals are poorly equipped and have dearth of doctors and paramedical staff. The domiciled based posting and transfer policy can help overcome the shortage of doctors and paramedics. However, the construction of operation theaters and supply of all required equipments must be given priority.
The Elementary and Secondary Education need immediate reforms on the pattern of settled districts. The method and rules of recruitment of school teachers should be the same as in vogue for the settled districts. The provincial government has decided to recruit 2500 school teachers for the tribal districts through EATA test instead of the most reliable and transparent NTS test. Why two different recruitment methods of school teachers appointment in the same province? EATA performance as a testing agency has always remained dismal in entry test for medical and engineering colleges. The change of testing agency for the recruitment of school teachers for the tribal districts is beyond comprehension. The female literacy ratio in these districts is very low which can be improved by enrolment and awareness campaigns. Hopefully, the provincial government will implement the uplift plan in a manner that ensures maximum benefits to the people.