Panel discussion: Rulers must get their development priorities right

Usman Khan

PESHAWAR: The Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (RRR) Unit of the KP government has released Rs4.5 billion funds for different projects in merged districts.

A target of restoration of about 700 projects of schools, health centres and drinking water supply has been set by the government with these funds. TNN has conducted panel discussion with Malik Attaullah Khan, leader of Awami Inqilab Party, and Hanif Khan Wazir, Member of Tribal Youth Development, an organisation working for the rights of tribal youth, on the procedure of spending of these funds and the share of different tribal districts.

Attaullah Khan said funds should be spent transparently. “Our schools have been destroyed and children are receiving education in tents. We should make our minds to take the system forward. Clean drinking water should also be provided to every home in tribal districts,” he said.

Attaullah Khan said 68 schools were destroyed in Bara during militancy. He said tender for reconstruction of schools has been issued, but funds have not been released.

“Funds are not enough, but still the existing funds need to be spent transparently. We cannot afford to point fingers at Orakzai, North Waziristan and Bajaur for getting more funds since the people of these areas also suffered a lot. Funds of over Rs.4 billion have been approved, but the real issue is about Rs.100 billion funds which were promised with the tribal people at the time of merger. That promise remains unfulfilled even one year after the merger,” he said.

The Inqilab Party leader said the government had also promised to double the amount of package for tribal districts with passage of time.

“How the government will give Rs.200 billion to tribal districts when it hasn’t fulfilled its initial promise of releasing Rs.100 billion,” he said. Therefore, he said, allocation of these funds is being demanded for merged districts in the budget.

He said a Water Resources Management Authority must be established in tribal districts to look into the issue of water supply. He said Spera Dam water is being provided to Bara under a good system, but management is not there.

Attaullah said the government shouldn’t have identified 700 projects at once. He said need-based projects should have been identified with passage of time. He said tribal districts have great tourism potential and this sector needs investment.

Attaullah said the district administrations don’t have the capacity to carry out development projects. “An independent authority must be established to decide development priorities. Important projects like the planned Expressway to connect all tribal districts must get priority. This project must be completed from the promised Rs.100 billion funds,” he said.

Attaullah said people have started talking about distribution formula of Rs.100 billion funds in merged districts, but they should let the money come. “But I want to make it clear that even one percent change cannot be brought if the funds are not spent on merit,” he said.

The Inqilab Party leader said there is no degree college in Bara while its population is 444,000. “There is no degree college for girls either. Now talks are underway for establishing a girls’ college. People from Mardan, Charsadda and Bannu will come there for duties. We need to educate our girls to enable them to fill the vacant posts in tribal districts and perform their duties regularly,” he said.

Hanif Wazir said inclusion of four sectors in the development programme is good, but he is also concerned about damaged houses.

“I can only go to school or hospital when I have my own house. Some markets have been established in merged districts, but most people in rural areas are still living in tents. These people love their area and they don’t want to live in other cities. Houses must be provided to tribespeople first and then projects in other sectors must be carried out as next priority,” he said.

Hanif Wazir said he was perturbed to see the tribal sisters in Landikotal bringing water on their heads by covering about three kilometres distance on foot.

“When we talk about development in Waziristan, we should not forget that there are 10 tehsils in Waziristan. Few markets have been established in the district headquarters, but the people of Dosali, Degan and Ghulam Khan tehsils have no basic facilities like clean drinking water, electricity etc. Roads in Degan are in extremely poor condition. A survey must be conducted to resolve these problems,” he said.

The Tribal Youth Development leader said that in settled areas, if a school project costs Rs10 million, then the same project in tribal districts costs up to Rs100 million. “I am unable to understand how 700 projects will be completed with Rs.4.5 billion. People associated with the projects will also make their TA/DA. I will be extremely happy even if a hundred projects are completed with these funds,” he said.

Hanif Wazir said the provincial and local bodies polls should have been held in merged districts to make the access of citizens to the government easier.

“Now we have MNAs who live at Parliament Lodges. Few people may access them, but the vast majority of tribal people cannot access them in Islamabad. There are 10 tehsils in North Waziristan. Committees should be formed on tehsil level which should hold consultation sessions. These committees must be invited to the offices of the DC and AC to know which projects must be prioritised,” he said.

Hanif said there are many areas where schools exist, but are non-functional due to lack of staff. He said the main problem in the merged districts is about education and various projects are underway to address this problem.

“The second main problem is about clean drinking water facility. This issue has larger implications in tribal districts as it not only causes health and sanitation problems, but it also causes tribal women to fetch water from outside their homes which is against their honour,” he said.

Sometimes, he said, the issues of honour arise from this problem and culminate into untoward consequences.

“Events should be organised in areas like Tirah, North Waziristan, Razmak and Makeen etc. in which decision makers from the country must be invited to give them first-hand knowledge about local problems,” he said.