Has the government allocated funds for FATA reforms in 2018-19 budget?

The federal government has allocated Rs114 billion for Fata in the fiscal budget 2018-19. Experts have expressed different point of views about the allocation, with some viewing it as a step towards merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while others expressing reservations over lack of special fund for Fata reforms.

In the new budget, Rs24 billion have been allocated for general expenditure, while Rs90 billion have been allocated for rehabilitant of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs).

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Fata ameer Sardar Khan says the allocation of Rs114 billion for Fata proves that course has been set for bringing reforms in Fata.

However, former Member National Assembly from Khyber Agency Hameedullah Jan Afridi believes that this amount is not allocated for Fata reforms. He said only Rs24 billion have been allocated for Fata, while the allocation for TDPs is an ongoing process which has nothing to do with reforms.

Mr Afridi, who served as federal minister in PPP government during 2008-2013, alleges that the government has deceived the Fata people in the name of reforms. He says the government always received billions of rupees from foreign donors and countries for Fata on the plea to develop the backward area.

“The government has never spent this money on the tribal areas and it didn’t change the condition of people there. These areas have been ignored in the budget yet again,” he told TNN.

How to spend Fata budget?

The priorities of tribal life have changed over the years due to law and order issues, military operations, life of displacement and many other issues.

Previously, the tribal population did not take much interest in the budget and allocation of funds for Fata. However, the situation is changed now and the people are taking more interest in allocations for education, healthcare and other sectors. They also want effective steps to curb corruption in government departments and effective utilisation of funds.

Malik Fayaz Khan, a tribal elder from Mohmand Agency, says the government should send special teams to all the agencies of Fata to find out which areas need more funds.

Muttahida Qabail Party leader Malik Habib Noor, an elder from Orakzai Agency, says most of the funds have been allocated for the TDPs, therefore, these funds should be spent transparently.

“The houses of tribal people were destroyed during militancy and military operations. The government should now focus on infrastructure development in Fata to revive the routine activities,” he said.

People’s Youth Organisation general secretary Iftikhar Hussain Sherazi, who hails from Kurram Agency, says the budget should make allocations for materialisation of Fata-KP merger.

“The reforms process is already continuing. Allocation of more resources for the reforms in the budget will further boost public trust,” he said.

Taimur Afridi from Bara, Khyber Agency, says the fate of seven agencies of Fata will not change with Rs100 billion. He said the government should allocate at least Rs300 billion for Fata every year and priority should be given to health, education, employment and improvement of electricity system. He said the law and order should further be improved to give the Fata people more sense of security.

Salman Ayaz from South Waziristan says police stations, courts and all other departments functioning in the settled areas will be needed in Fata. He said funds will be needed to pay salaries to the employees of these departments. He said the funds are allocated for Fata reforms, then these are quite insufficient.

This article has been taken from TNN programme Badloon which highlights political activities and reforms process in Fata. TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Iftikhar Khan produced this programme which was broadcast from five radio stations of FATA and KP.

TNN correspondents Shah Khalid, Shah Nawaz Khan Afridi, Nabi Jan Orakzai, Malik Azmat, Ali Afzal, Rizwan Mehsud and Gul Muhammad Mohmand contributed to this article.