PESHAWAR: As political parties are at loggerheads over the proposed merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the USAID has jumped in by offering technical assistance to the provincial government on the matter.
A team of the United States Agency for International Development offered its technical assistance in a recent meeting with a delegation of the provincial government at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Office, Islamabad, according to official documents and sources.
“The USAID team offered technical assistance to the KP government for Fata’s proposed merger with KP,” said the minutes of the meeting.
The USAID’s team was led by deputy mission director Kevin Brownawell and KP’s by the additional chief secretary.
Official says a high-level panel already in place to decide about matter
The meeting took place on Jan 25 this year.
However, the additional chief secretary responded that a broad-based high-level committee had been formed on the matter and that the need for USAID assistance will be determined by the committee, revealed the minutes of the meeting.
The US government has been spending billions of funds in social sector of Fata particularly health, education and capacity building of departments for the last 14 years.
The federal government has delayed the execution of the Fata-KP merger plan due to opposition by its two coalition partners, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
The report of the Fata reforms committee is likely to be put up to the federal cabinet in the next meeting after the addressing of reservations of its coalition partners.
Mr. Fazl had told media in Peshawar on Thursday that an understanding had reached between his party and the federal government over the future of Fata and that there would be no Fata-KP merger for the next five years.
Other parties, including PPP, PTI, JI and ANP, are pressuring the federal government to merge Fata with the KP before the next general elections.
The report about the political mainstreaming of Fata was launched last year and was laid before the National Assembly.
Sources said a burns center for Peshawar, municipal services delivery project, Provincial Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Settlement Authority and Provincial Disaster Management Authority were on the agenda of the meeting.
They said significantly, the Fata’s merger with KP was not on the agenda of the meeting and that the USAID made the offer of technical assistance on the Fata-KP merger in general discussion.
“The USAID may be approached if any assistance is required,” reveals the minutes of the meeting.
When approached, the US Embassy’s spokesperson, Fleur Cowan, claimed her country hadn’t offered technical assistance related to the Fata-KP merger.
“Fata reform is a matter for the people of that region to determine,” she said in written reply to Dawn email.
The spokesperson said the US had provided assistance to Fata and KP for many years and was ready to offer additional assistance if requested.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had issued directives to provincial home and tribal affairs department to expedite the process of Fata reforms.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2017