PESHAWAR: A mere 2.8 percent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s development funds for the financial year 2011-12 have been allocated to the under-developed southern districts of the province while Hazara division got 6.1 percent.
“The criteria for distribution of public funds are not clear. If the National Finance Commission (NFC) criteria is applied, then the due share of the southern districts of the province will increase from 2.8 percent to 21 percent, and that of Hazara from 6.1 percent to 19 percent,” according to figures presented by Ali Asghar Khan at a People’s Assembly convened by the Omar Asghar Khan Foundation at the Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar.
The assembly endorsed the demand that the Provincial Finance Commission should be tasked to negotiate the criteria on the lines of the NFC and ensure fair distribution of all development funds to the districts. “Equitable use of public funds is the greatest contributor to a people’s sense of belonging and is a force that binds them together,” he said.
Ali Asghar Khan criticised the retention of more than two-thirds of the total development outlay of Rs.85.14 billion as “block” funds and demanded transparency in all public budget allocations. He presented the example of a block allocation of Rs300 million made for educational scholarships for students in the province in 2010-11, which appeared to benefit students from the Chief Minister’s home district of Mardan.
Allocations for flood rehabilitation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa budget of 2011-12 are also inadequate. Kohistan district that accounted for 12 percent of the total affected population of the province was allocated only Rs.25 million out of a total outlay of Rs8.46 billion set aside for flood rehabilitation.
On the basis of numbers of the affectees, Kohistan should receive over Rs1 billion or an estimated 40 times more than the amount allocated in fiscal year 2011-12.
Speaking on the occasion, Qalandar Lodhi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and member of the provincial assembly said that he supported the demand of specifying allocation and opposition of “block funds”.
Shibli Faraz of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said proper allocation and utilisation of budgets must be ensured.
Representing the Citizens for Clean Environment, a grouping of the non-governmental organisations, Dr Adil Zareef said the consent of the people should be taken before launching development projects.
Citing the example of the fly-over projects in Peshawar, he said citizens should have the right to express opinions about any project that concerned their areas. He said one district should not be developed at the cost of another. Provincial Minister for Higher Education Qazi Asad said fairness and transparency in budgets was essential, but the culture of patronage in politics places many demands on politicians. “This will only change through legislation,” he said.
Qazi Asad committed support to legislation that enables more equitable budget allocations. Commenting on the question of Hazara province, the minister said he had tabled a resolution in the provincial assembly demanding Hazara province. However, he disagreed with the assertion of Qalandar Lodhi and others that 70 percent of the revenue of the province was being generated by Hazara division. He said the Constitution had categorically stated that the revenue would go to the province where the powerhouse of a hydel project is located and the powerhouse of the Tarbela dam was located in Topi in Swabi district, which was not part of Hazara.
The gas and oil resources generated in Karak and other southern districts had surpassed the revenue generation from hydel sector in the province, he pointed out. The minister said the Awami National Party was a political force and its leadership was always willing to listen to arguments on the basis of logic. “We support the formation of new provinces on the basis of administrative needs and not on ethnic or linguistic grounds,” he said.