Dawn News

PESHAWAR, Sept 28: Businessmen on Friday accused security personnel manning checkposts in tribal areas of corruption, saying goods transport vehicles moving between Afghanistan and Pakistan were allowed to move on only after their drivers offered bribe.During a meeting with State and Frontier Regions (Safron) Minister Shaukatullah Khan here on the Tribal Areas Chamber of Commerce and Industries (TACCI) premises here, they also complained about inefficiency of the Civil Secretariat’s line departments and other developing agencies operating in Fata, and demanded announcement of a special package for promotion of trade and industries in the tribal region.

Some participants said security personnel ‘charged’ Rs15,000 from a truck at Torkham checkpost and that each trucker transporting export goods paid Rs1,000 at each checkpost in Fata and Rs3,000 to the respective tehsildar.

They declared personnel manning checkposts along Peshawar-Torkham Highway extortionists.

Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Senator Ghulam Ali, who is also a member of TACCI, criticised the Civil Secretariat, its line departments and Fata Development Authority for poor performance and said they should pack up if they couldn’t deliver.

He said despite availability of funds, no mega project had been completed for many years in Fata.

Mr Ali said former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor Iftikhar Hussain Shah had sanctioned Rs5 million for construction of TACCI building, but the Civil Secretariat was creating hurdles to it.

He said work on Marble City near Mohmand Agency began six years ago but had yet to be completed.

The senator said extension of sales tax to Fata had resulted in closure of several local big and small industrial units.

He said six major cooking oil manufacturing units, which annually paid Rs7 billion customs duty to the government, had shut down the shop after imposition of sales tax. He proposed to place a ban on lease of mines.

Mr Ali demanded that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf extend tax exemptions and concessions for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata traders and industrialists for another two years.

Akbar Khan, a businessman from Peshawar, proposed that the federal government introduce credit facility in Fata to promote business activities in the region. He also suggested that the government set up a Fata development bank.

Minister Shaukatullah, too, expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Fata line departments and developing agencies.

He urged the Civil Secretariat and other agencies to expedite work on ongoing development schemes and help local investors create employment opportunities in the region.

The minister assured businessmen that he would take up their grievances with the governor and the president for corrective measures.

He said terrorism had taken a heavy toll on the life of Fata residents by destroying local socioeconomic conditions.

Mr Shaukatullah said the federal government was aware of the hardships faced by Fata people and was spending huge sums of money to address them.

The minister said the government had accorded top priority to promotion of education and employment in Fata and was introducing revolutionary reforms there to reorganise administrative structure.

He said he would speak to the prime minister to announce a special package for Fata trade and industry.

He issued orders on the spot to address grievances of tribal traders and industrialists.

Speaking on the occasion, Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Zubair Ali said business and trade activity in Fata had suffered immensely due to militancy and military operation against it.

He said a few industries, which were operational in tribal areas, had shut down its shop due to the delicate security situation in the region. He said the federal government neither took any steps to address concerns of the trading community nor did it give them any compensation.

He said there were no dearth of resources but the federal and provincial government should jointly work to plan Fata development.

“Improving security situation in tribal areas is a pre-requisite for economic growth,” he said.

Mr Ali criticised bureaucracy for creating hurdles to promotion of trade and industry and said officials’ job should be to improve governance not run industries.

Some speakers demanded establishment of a Fata development bank, early completion of the marble city, withdrawal of sales tax on goods, and supply of electricity and gas to tribal industries.

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