Last update: Sat, 13 Feb 2016 01pm

Rehab and reconstruction imperatives

Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar recently revealed to an All-Party Conference (APC) that the cost of rehabilitation and reconstruction of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in only three out of seven tribal agencies is around 88 billion rupees. This estimate was prepared by the Finance Ministry subsequent to the Prime Minister's directives that rehabilitation of IDPs be prioritised which would require reconstruction of infrastructure as well as of homes destroyed during the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb.

The Prime Minister's directive is part of the National Action Plan (NAP) which is a major component of the 32 billion rupees National Internal Security Programme (NISP) designed to effectively combat the menace of terrorism. The Ministry of Finance has indicated that it would make available the necessary funds for the purpose notwithstanding the ongoing macroeconomic concerns sourced to sustained poor resource collection and heavy outlay. Notwithstanding these resource constraints, it is relevant to note that the Ministry of Finance allocated an amount which is much less than the amount required to implement the strategy.

Critics maintain that the reason for the poor allocation can be sourced to a 'turf war' between the Ministers of Finance and Interior yet one would hope that this is not the case. The Finance Minister has himself acknowledged time and again that the major impediment to economic growth is terrorism and it is hoped that he prioritises releases to meet the requirements of the NISP. The Minister of Interior in turn should determine how much money is required month-wise to begin implementation of the NAP.

There was unanimity between all political parties during the APC that as the tribals had paid the highest cost not only in terms of being subjected to terror attacks and living with constant terror threats but also as an outcome of the ongoing military operation there is a need to make good their financial losses. Spokesperson of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) reform committee Ajmal Khan Wazir, Vice President of PML-Q, revealed to Business Recorder that the committee has made 11 recommendations to the government which include an infrastructure development plan with a focus on education, health, and employment generation as well as amending Article 127 of the constitution thereby guaranteeing fundamental rights to all tribals and shifting of legislative powers from the President of Pakistan to parliament. These are salutary proposals and one would hope that the government begins to implement these reforms to ensure that the menace of terrorism fuelled by poverty as well as illiteracy is appropriately dealt with.

In this context, it is relevant to point out that study after study has shown that literacy is a key component in the success of any immunisation campaign including the success of a polio vaccination drive that is facing a serious resistance. And poverty in tribal areas remains a key element in the success of the recruitment drive by terrorists in the tribal areas. Thus any effective strategy that seeks to degrade the support base of terrorists must focus on development of the region that includes generation of employment opportunities and one must support the government's plan in this regard, as enunciated by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, to recruit 8,000 youth in security forces. But this number is only a small start and one would hope that the rehabilitation work is restricted to employment of the IDPs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015