Govt approves Rs24 billion uplift funds for tribal districts

LANDI KOTAL: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet here on Thursday approved Rs24 billion annual development funds for tribal districts and decided to take immediate steps to start utilisation of the approved amount.

The cabinet meeting was held in Landi Kotal subdivision of Khyber tribal district for the first time after the merger of Fata with the province. Chief Minister Mahmood Khan chaired the meeting, which was attended by several ministers, secretaries of various departments and deputy commissioners of all the seven tribal districts.

Elaborate arrangements were made for the cabinet meeting held at the local jirga hall amid tight security and heavily overcast conditions.
The chief minister and other participants of the meeting came to Landi Kotal by road and took the same route for their return journey to Peshawar late in the afternoon. Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Mehsud could not attend the important meeting owing to his prior engagements in Islamabad.

Briefing media about the decisions made by the cabinet and discussions held during nearly two hours meeting, Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai said that owing to the historic significance of the cabinet meeting, most of the discussions were made about the erstwhile Fata and certain important decisions were also made.

He said that the cabinet resolved to expedite the process of development in tribal districts along with focusing on provision of basic facilities to the local residents.

“It was decided to overcome shortage of teachers in educational institutions and doctors in different hospitals alongside rebuilding of all the damaged schools and health facilities in ‘Fata’ with extreme urgency,” he said.

Repeatedly referring to the tribal region with its former name of ‘Fata’, the information minister said that deputy commissioners of all the seven tribal districts were advised to identify suitable sites for construction of sports stadiums alongside provision of basic municipal facilities in all the 26 tehsils of erstwhile Fata.

He said that provincial government would provide skill development training to at least 2,000 talented tribal youth while nearly 300 local mosques would be solarised in the initial plan of solarising almost all the mosques in the seven tribal districts.

Mr Yousafzai said that the cabinet approved annual development funds of Rs24 billion and immediate steps would be taken to start utilisation of the approved amount.

“The federal government along with the provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab has agreed to commit three per cent of their share from the National Finance Commission and the provincial cabinet has decided to get the promised funds at the earliest for its onward utilisation on the development of damaged infrastructure in Fata,” he said.

He said that the cabinet also discussed launching of safari bus service and rail service from Peshawar to Torkham to promote tourism.

“We are in the process of devising ways and means for promotion of tourism in tribal districts and it will certainly take some time,” said the minister. He added that all such steps when practically taken would help in boosting the local economy with provision of employment opportunities to tribesmen.

Mr Yousafzai said that the cabinet also decided to provide health cards to almost all the families in the seven merged districts while rehabilitation of the internally displaced families and rebuilding of the entire damaged infrastructure would also be expedited.

He said that the cabinet approved drafting of necessary laws to effectively check terror financing through money laundering and putting an end to financial crimes. “The home department will recommend drafting of such laws after consultations with all the stakeholders,” he added.

The minister said that the cabinet approved the health policy, which would be explained in detail to media by the provincial health minister on an appropriate date.

Mr Yousafzai said that local residents were not given any share in the net profit of completed hydel power projects, especially in Shangla and Kohistan districts, about which the provincial cabinet decided to take up the matter with Wapda.

“We are quite optimistic that people of the province, especially where these projects have been completed, would soon hear some good news about their rights in the royalty,” said the minister.

PROTEST: The members of Landi Kotal Press Club organised a demonstration outside the jirga hall where the meeting of the cabinet was held as the local administration did not allow them to cover the first-ever such meeting in their hometown.

The local administration had invited journalists from Peshawar for coverage.

Landi Kotal assistant commissioner told the protesting local journalists that they could enter the jirga hall premises but could not cover the cabinet meeting as per the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the Thursday meeting.

Meanwhile, activists of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and tribal elders of Fata Grand Alliance also called off the protest demonstrations, which they had announced a day before. No reason for calling off the protest demonstration was given to local media despite repeated approaches.

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