Tribal districts’ uplift
While presiding over a high level meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan assured that the Federal government would provide additional resources required for the uplift of tribal areas, besides playing an effective role for allocation of development package meant for the areas out of National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.
A few months before the passage of historic FATA-KP merger bill by the parliament and its signing into law by the President of Pakistan, Additional Chief Secretary FATA Sikindar Qayyum had talked about an ambitious 10 years development plan worth Rs. 100 billion. He had also told that a comprehensive document for allocating three of financial resources in the NFC Award has been prepared for submission to the federal government for approval.
Allocation of funds for the socio-economic uplift of FATA has never been a difficult task. It were the lack of transparency and accountability, skewed priorities and low capacity of nation building departments that tribal areas could not come at par with settled districts. Despite the rhetoric galore of the tribal belt mainstreaming, community participation in the selection of development schemes was not ensured; transparency and judicious utilisation of funds was not a canon of expenditure; and capacity of line departments for executing projects of peoples’ welfare was no built. Consequently, wastage and misappropriation of financial resources remained a well entrenched norm. It was because of these factors that former FATA Development Corporation miserably failed to bring improvement in the living standards in the tribal belt. Governor’s Secretariat FATA also did not do wonders. The development schemes, by and large, remained confined to paperwork and publicity campaigns of the media cell of this Secretariat. The credibility of this office also remained low in the eyes foreign diplomats whose countries provided funds for the implementation development packages.
The tribal districts have great potential in agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism and industry. Small storage dams to conserve the water resources from rainfall and flashfloods can give a big boost to agriculture by enhancing the production of cereal crops, vegetable, beans and lintels and different types of fruits. The ecological environment is conducive for raising forests, particularly plantation of Gymnosperms. There are vast reserves of precious minerals like marble, granite, soap stone, chromium and coal. Mineral policy that was announced a few years ago was not implemented binding the mining lease holders to use new technology to save the wastage of mineral wealth which still done by dynamite blasting. The tribal districts of Khyber, Mahmand, Bajur, Aurakzai and Kurram have innumerable spots of tourist attraction. Senior minister Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Muhammad Atif Khan is keen to bring foreign investment in tourism.
Necessary raw material is available for setting up agro-based and mineral-based is in abundance. The plan of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) needs to be revived and implemented. These industrial zones will certainly attract foreign and domestic investment provided economic environment is significantly improved by providing uninterrupted power supply at reasonable price and tax holiday for a long period. This will accelerate the export of value added products to Afghanistan and Central Asian States. Hopefully, the new government in the centre and KPK will focus on setting up courts of subordinate judiciary, putting in place an honest and efficient district. administration and police system and holding of local bodies’ polls and elections for the provincial assembly seats from the tribal districts to complete the merger process on time