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EDITORIAL: Denial of due share to a section of society in the socio-economic development of a polity tends to breed discontent and even resistance. The seven tribal districts of erstwhile FATA are apparently that very segment of our society. In 1947, the elders of these tribal districts, which did not fall in the British-controlled Subcontinent, met the Quaid-e-Azam in Peshawar and offered to be treated as part of the newly created Pakistan. They joined Pakistan, but were never treated as equal partner in governance and socio-economic development of the country. It is a region of rich tribal culture and traditions, but also marked by extreme poverty and occasional scene of violent conflict. That remains their fate, even after merger of these seven tribal districts with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in May 2018. The Reforms Commission, approved by the parliament a year before, had noted that the region was beset with marginalization, limited inclusion in planning and decision-making process and inadequate basic services and income-generating opportunities. But the commission was confident that the granted inflow of 3 percent of Sartaj Aziz-led National Finance Commission Award would help tangible mainstreaming of this neglected region. But that has not happened. The federal government has released only 37 percent of its pledged funds for development of merged districts. But even this allocation has not reached people.

Why so the JUI (F) member of the provincial assembly, Naeema Kishwar, raised the question. She wanted to know why the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC), through which the funds are supposed to be distributed, met only twice in the last two years while it was required to meet four times. And how come the tribal districts as a region has no representation in the PFC, she wondered. The provincial government had also denied Rs 43 billion funds meant for the development activities of local bodies in the previous financial year, and in 2019-20 out of the share of local bodies in development funds from the allocation of Rs 46 billion only Rs 3 billion was released. But the reply she received was prompt and quite disappointing: “Why the funds will be released when there is no local government system in the merged districts,” said Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, adding that in the absence of LG system the release of funds is very difficult. Jhagra may be legally correct, but given the turmoil that keeps rocking the tribal areas there should be an out-of-the-box solution of this abnormal situation. If the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government readily decides to go for a way out of such imbroglios by issuing ordinances why then its provincial government kept sleeping over the denial of tribal districts’ due share in development funds. Having absolute majority in the KP assembly the concerned provincial department should have gone for some remedial strategy. The issue is not the absence of local bodies in the merged districts; the issue is the grinding poverty and backwardness in that volatile region. Those who want the single national curriculum and maximum school enrolment may like to know that in some tehsils of merged districts there are no educational institutions for girls even today.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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