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PESHAWAR: The federal government again came under severe criticism in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Wednesday accused the centre of discriminating against the province by repeatedly denying no objection certificates to foreign dignitaries wishing to visit local areas to discuss development initiatives.

Wearing black armbands, they regretted the federal government’s refusal to issue NOC to a British High Commission delegation for KP visit.

The issue was raised by Dr Haider Ali of the PTI, who said the federal government had breached the privilege of the house by ignoring its unanimously-passed resolution on the matter.

“Despite our adopting a resolution against non-issuance of NOCs to foreign delegates just a week ago, the centre has denied the representatives of the British High Commission NOC to visit KP for a meeting with (Assembly) Speaker Asad Qaisar,” he said.

Lawmakers say federal govt creating hurdles to province’s uplift

“We are requesting other countries to help us with the execution of our development agenda but unfortunately, the federal government is creating hurdles by not allowing their delegations to come here,” he said.

Dr Haider said the BHC delegates, including political counselor William Midelton and second secretaries (political) Claire Nichols and James Evan, were to discuss KP’s political and economic situation with the authorities.

He said the last government didn’t stop foreign delegates from visiting the province despite the delicate law and order situation.

The lawmaker wondered why NOCs were denied to foreign delegates when peace had significantly been restored in the region.

Participating in the debate, senior minister Sikandar Khan Sherpao said foreign delegates came to the province to examine poverty and backwardness for help but the federal authorities didn’t want to show all that to the world.

“KP’s deprivation will further increase if the federal government doesn’t stop its ‘step-motherly’ (discriminatory) attitude towards it,” he said warning things could lead to the 1971-like crisis.

PPP parliamentary leader Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha, PTI’s Amjad Afridi, JUI-F’s Mufti Fazl Ghafoor and other MPAs also spoke on the issue.

Also, the house adopted a joint resolution pushing the federal government for the early KP-Fata merger in line with the wishes of tribal people.

The resolution tabled Dr Haider Ali of the PTI was passed by most lawmakers. Only JUI-F members opposed it.

“This house demands the federal government merge Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa according the desires of its (Fata) people,” the mover said while reading out the resolution.

Besides the mover, the resolution was also signed by minister Sikandar Sherpao, finance minister Muzaffar Said, PPP parliamentary leader Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha and PML-N parliamentary leader Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha.

After the passage of the resolution, Mr. Sherpao said Fata had been backward since creation of Pakistan for being ignored by the successive governments.

“Those opposing the Fata-KP merger are actually doing an injustice to the people of both regions. KP will become the second largest province of the country after Fata is merged with it,” he said while speaking on a point of order in support of the merger plan.

The minister declared the Frontier Crimes Regulation a harsh law and said it was illogical to enforce it in Fata only.

He wondered how a country could have two different laws for its citizens.

“The people of Fata have the same rights as enjoyed by those living in other parts of the country,” he said.

Mr. Sherpao said the people of tribal region had a miserable life due to the denial of own rights.

Mufti Said Janan of the JUI-F said his party would oppose the Fata-KP merger if it was done without the tribal people’s consent.

“Our party’s stand is that Fata should be made a province,” he said.

Earlier, the administration department told the house in the written reply to a query that the provincial government had spent Rs39 million on supply of fuel to its two helicopters. Speaker Asad Qaiser, who was in the chair, adjourned the session until Friday.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2016