Peshawar Nov 16: On the demand of FATA parliamentarians, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on 18 October directed the National Implementation Committee on FATA reforms to give share to the tribal areas in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award for the next 10 years.
Some tribal leaders have expressed jubilation over this development, while others consider it just a political statement. Member National Assembly from Khyber Agency Al-Haaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi says the prime minister had promised to give FATA share in the NFC Award on 9 October. “Prime Minister Abbasi had promised us to give 3 percent share in NFC Award. According to FATA reforms proposals, this amount will be spent on development projects in FATA during the next 10 years. Our initial aim was to force the government to accept our demand and then press for its implementation. FATA was expected to get Rs110 billion under the 3 percent share. However, after the population census, now there are chances that we may get funds up to Rs200 billion,” he said.
Although Shah Jee considers development on NFC Award issue his success, Haji Akbar Khan, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) from Bajaur Agency, credits his party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for achieving this goal.
“It is the outcome of our party’s efforts that FATA will now get 3 percent share in NFC Award. Maulana Sahib says peace should be restored in FATA and all facilities and funds should be provided to the tribal people to enable them to stand on their own feet after which they should decide about their future,” he said.
On the other hand, FATA Parliamentary Leader Nasir Khan Afridi says it’s just political point scoring and nothing else. He says reforms process will remain incomplete without giving FATA share in NFC Award.
“I think it is impossible that FATA will get share in NFC Award by 2018. No progress can be made on FATA reforms until the tribal areas get share in NFC Award. It is unfortunate that all parties are doing politics on this issue,” Nasir Afridi said.
Ghazi Gulab Jamal, MNA from Orakzai Agency, supports the viewpoint of Nasir Khan Afridi and says the federal and provincial governments are not sincere in giving FATA share in NFC Award.
“No province is sincere in giving FATA share in NFC Award. They would have made announcements in support of this proposal if they were sincere. It was promised that Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) will be abolished, but it could not be scrapped so far,” he said.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) president for Bajaur Agency chapter Dr Khalilur Rehman says mainstreaming of FATA for the first time is a welcome development and he hopes that this decision will be implemented soon.
“All the financial matters of Pakistan are settled in NFC Award and funds are distributed among the federating units keeping in view their population and poverty ratio. It is very good development that FATA will now get funds from the divisible pool. I am hopeful that FATA will get its share eventually,” Khalilur Rehman said.
On the other hand, political economist Dr Naureen Naseer, who hails from Kurram Agency, fears that lack of efficient machinery for utilisation of development funds may cause misuse of these funds.
“FATA was not getting any funds for the last 50 years and it got some funds only after foreign funds started arriving to Pakistan for development of backward areas of FATA. Foreign trade is done using the routes of FATA, but the region did not get anything from the NFC Award. Their willingness for the first time to recognise our right is a ray of hope for us.
However, fears remain that we may end up receiving peanuts in return for huge promises. The presence of an effective check and balance system was vital to ensure fair distribution and expenditure of funds.
This story has been taken from TNN programme Badloon which highlights political activities and reforms process in FATA. TNN producers Shan Muhammad and Salman Ahmed prepared this programme which was broadcast from five radio stations of FATA and KP.
TNN correspondents Shah Khalid, Anwar Shah, Ali Afzal Afzaal and Shah Nawaz Khan contributed to the programme.