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August 25, 2019

Slow rehab process in tribal districts irks MNA


August 25, 2019

PESHAWAR: Questioning the rehabilitation process in the merged tribal districts, Member National Assembly (MNA) Munir Khan Orakzai on Saturday asked the government to declare erstwhile Fata tax-free zone for 25 years.

“The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has so far failed to resolve the issues confronting people in the merged areas. The sense of deprivation is increasing among the people,” he told The News.

Munir Orakzai said the government and security forces had asked the tribal people to leave their areas during militancy and they became temporarily displaced persons (TDPs), but nothing has been done for their rehabilitation on return to their respective areas.

“Just imagine how a house ruined in terror activities during militancy could be reconstructed with Rs0.4 million being provided as compensation by the government?” asked the MNA from National Assembly constituency, NA-38 Kurram.

He said the tribal people lacked basic facilities in education and health sectors, adding that backwardness, weak delivery of social services, sense of insecurity, protracted war on terror, military operations, collateral damages, displacement and bad governance in the region led to trust deficit between the state and tribes.

He said non-implementation of the approved mega projects for the uplift of Fata was also one of the contributing factors in causing trust deficit.

“The Tribal Areas Rural to Urban Centre Conversion Initiatives for social transformation of Fata from a scattered society to a more urbanised, cosmopolitan and progressive society and Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) for socio-economic revival of the region would have been a game-changer,” he added.

The parliamentarian said the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a historic milestone but tribespeople had severe reservations on the way their area was merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “It wasn’t done in accordance with the will of the tribespeople and in conformity with the present day needs,” he argued.

He maintained that there was resentment among tribespeople over the behaviour and indifference of the leaders to fulfill the promises they made before and during the merger.

“This time our common enemies will not miss the chance and can sabotage our peace and tranquility which we restored with lot of sacrifices of LEAs and civilians,” he added.

He said the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) estimated that over 70,000 families were de-registered as TDPs after they refused to go back to their native areas due to lack of basic facilities.

“I demand revisiting the TDPs repatriation policy to expedite the process of return and rehabilitation and to enhance the amount of compensation.

Their return should be ensured with respect, their houses should be reconstructed along with provision of basic household belongings and means for rehabilitation.

Provision of drinking water, healthcare, schools, electricity, roads and irrigation water are also basic needs,” he said.

He said the tribal districts should be declared tax-free for at least 25 years. Munir Orakzai maintained that a quick emphatic project be initiated in tribal districts to promote establishment of industrial estates, increase employment quota and give subsidy in prices of wheat, ghee, sugar, etc.

He advocated exemption of essential commodities from tax in tribal districts, regularisation of all contract employees and provision of soft loans to the people.

He said around 600 educational institutions including three colleges in tribal districts had not been functional for the last one decade due to multiple reasons. He added that around 400,000 children were out of school in erstwhile Fata.

The literacy rate in Fata was just 10.5 percent among females and 36.66 percent for males.

He said that each merged district should have its paramedics institute and a cadet college along with a nursing, medical and engineering college and an agricultural institute.

He lamented that no staff was available in the merged districts for the newly- constructed schools and health outlets for the last 10 years. He estimated that 13,000 officials were required to fill these vacant positions.

“There is no land settlement in tribal districts except in parts of district Kurram. A revenue reforms commission should be constituted to carry out land settlement across the tribal districts,” he added.

The parliamentarian said the tribal districts were full of natural resources, but these were being exploited by outsiders due to weak mineral policy and oversight.

He argued that depriving people of erstwhile Fata of the Refugee Affected and Hosting Area (RAHA) project compensation was unjust.

“The people of tribal districts had more right over this compensation project. RAHA should be immediately extended to tribal districts.” he added.