Erstwhile FATA: Implementation of pledged reforms, development remains poor after two years of merger
ISLAMABAD: Implem-entation of pledged reforms and development package remained poor, including mainstreaming of institutions and departments, due to lack of required funds two years after merger of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
In an anecdotal survey conducted by Business Recorder it was revealed that the major issue remains non-availability of the required funds pledged to the erstwhile tribal region prior to its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018.
Public representatives and tribal elders while talking to this correspondent complained that nothing has changed on the ground and the development package that was promised before the merger remained on paper.
Member National Assembly from Kurram tribal district Sajid Hussain Turi maintained that the government is yet to fulfill the commitments made with people of the tribal districts, adding that people were suffering due to administrative disputes within departments.
He clarified that disputes between departments over jurisdiction of sub-departments and their employees was not only delaying the implementation of the reforms’ package but also resulting in problems for the people.
He pointed out that the dispute between Provincial Housing Authority (PHA) and Tehsil Municipal Administrations (TMAs) has caused a lot of civic issues in the tribal districts with no progress despite raising these issues again and again with concerned quarters.
“There is nothing on the ground other than spending millions of rupees on advertisements on media with regard to developments projects which is a “fraud” being perpetrated against the people of the tribal districts,” he maintained, adding the road networks were presenting dilapidated conditions but the provincial government put the blame on the federal government for not releasing the required funds for the projects.
He stated that the officers under the local administration still consider themselves as de-facto political agents with no solution to the problem of resolving land disputes which in turn is still accounting for loss of dozens of precious lives.
Since 2018, he maintained that only Rs 52 billion had been released out of the total Rs 400 billion pledged - an amount linked to reaching a consensus on allocating three percent to erstwhile FATA in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award; however there had been no progress on NFC award, he said.
A PTI Member of National Assembly from Bajur tribal district Gul Zafar Khan acknowledged that the government was yet to make any progress on the reforms’ agenda due to which people are suffering.
About the land disputes, he stated that there was no land record in various tribal districts which had become a major issue, adding the provincial government needed to address the issue at the earliest.
He appreciated the government’s initiatives in health and education, saying that covering the entire tribal districts along with the KP province in the “Sehat Sahulat Programme” was a ‘major achievement’, besides reforms in the education department.
During the anecdotal survey, it was however revealed that people were facing problems in getting medical treatment in the prescribed hospitals under the “Sehat Insaf Card”, as many specialized doctors who worked within those hospitals exempt themselves from coverage of the health cards.
Additionally, people from the tribal districts complained that they were compelled to extend bribes to local administration officials to get their legitimate works done.
“It appears that only titles from political agents and assistant political agents have changed while their attitudes have not changed,” said Taj Wazir, an elder from South Waziristan.
A senior official of Directorate of Projects, Planning and Development of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told Business Recorder that the federal government had so far released only Rs 23 billion during FY 2019-20 against the committed amount of Rs 48 billion.
As a result, the execution of some of the projects was deferred during FY 2019-20, he added. He further said the provincial government of KP could release only Rs 01 billion against the committed amount of Rs11 billion during the said period.
To make the transition smoother, he said the KP government had framed a 10-year development plan - Tribal Decade Strategy (TDS 2020-2030) that provided guiding principles for developmental initiatives in merged tribal districts.
Initially, he added that a three-year programme, under the TDS, was formulated in the form of Accelerated Implementation Programme (AIP), comprising of 206 interventions and falling over different sectors, laying the broader foundation of development in the region.
Under the AIP, he stated that various departments approved 127 projects in the first year from the relevant forums at an aggregate cost of Rs 142 billion. During the financial year 2019-20 an amount of Rs 24 billion was released to the departments, which was spent on the execution of various projects.
He acknowledged that the limited institutional capacity is still a major problem that departments have to cope with during the next few years; administrative departments of erstwhile FATA such as Finance, Planning and Development, Law and Order and Administration, and other sectoral departments were merged with their respective departments of KP, followed by the merger of their directorates which was a tedious and time-consuming process.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021