PESHAWAR: The federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments have agreed to share their resources from the divisible pool to fund the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), clearing a major issue that has stymied and made the mainstreaming an uncertainty, according to the minutes issued at the end of a high-level meeting held earlier this week.
The meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday decided that Punjab and KP along with the Centre would provide three per cent of their share from the federal divisible pool to fund the specific requirements of the erstwhile Fata. The decision will be implemented within six months.
In the meanwhile, the federal government would make efforts to finalise 3pc allocation from provincial and federal shares in the National Finance Commission for the erstwhile Fata.
A recent meeting chaired by PM took decision in view of delay in formation of National Finance Commission
Officials say the decision by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-ruled Punjab and KP and Center to share their kitty to immediately kick-start development in the now settled tribal districts of this northwestern province was taken in view of the delay in the formation of the NFC and perceived resistance by Sindh, and possibly Balochistan, to agree to cut in their shares.
The funds are not likely to come anytime soon, the officials acknowledge, given the fact that the next budget is due in a few months’ time, but the decision has set the formula to generate enough resources to kick-start the process and keep it going.
Based on the projections for 2018-19 of the federal divisible pool and provinces’ share, contribution by the two provinces and the Centre to the erstwhile Fata comes to Rs108.03 billion.
“I wasn’t really worried about the money not coming,” Taimoor Saleem Khan Jhagra, KP’s ebullient Finance Minister, told Dawn when approached for comments. “We had the commitment,” he added. “What we need now is to plan to spend that money in an efficient way so that the people there see the dividends coming their way.”
The meeting also decided that KP’s budget for the financial year 2019-20 would include the budget for the erstwhile Fata, while the finance division would finalise modalities of financial transition to ensure smooth transfer. Separate accounting mechanism for funds meant for the merged areas would also be created and maintained to ensure that funds meant for the erstwhile Fata were spent there.
Interim governance and Riwaj
In order to provide legal cover to the transition period and ownership of the province in the merger process, the meeting decided to promulgate governance law for the interim period within one month.
A recent judgement by the Peshawar High Court striking down the Fata Interim Governance Regulation led to a legal vacuum in the settled tribal districts. KP filed a review petition in the Supreme Court which in its ruling on Monday gave the government six months to take appropriate steps to introduce a proper judicial system in the area.
The meeting decided to establish courts in the erstwhile Fata within one year. The officials say that while the SC has given six months to establish court, they are confident that the apex court may grant further extension owing to the multiple complex issues. In the meantime, platforms for dispute resolution and grievance redressal would be established based on age-old tradition to benefit the people, should they ask for it.
Law and order
The meeting, which was also attended by the KP chief minister and governor as well as relevant officials and representatives of the 11th Corps and Military Operations Directorate, decided to fill 2,200 vacant pots of Levies and their training in accordance with the police criteria within three to six months.
Police would move inside the tribal districts in a sequential manner within one year with soft to hard approach. “The state should project its softer image and not be seen as coercing them,” a senior government official said.
DSPs, inspectors and sub-inspectors would all be inducted into the police from the erstwhile Fata within one year, the minutes issued by the Prime Minister Office said. “Police, prisons and prosecution should move in a sequential manner,” the minutes read.
Health and education
The meeting decided to extend independent monitoring units to ensure immediate presence of staff in health and education facilities and check absenteeism, filling of vacant posts, identification of missing facilities and provision of such facilities through the Annual Development Programme and creation of new facilities in schools and the now-settled district headquarters’ hospitals.
The meeting also decided to extend Health Cards to around half a million families in the tribal districts by the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation within one month.
The meeting decided to enact the Local Government Law and hold local government elections at the same time as that of KP within six months.
The meeting decided to abolish the post of additional chief secretary (Fata) and transfer all his functions to the home and tribal affairs secretary. Ministers and secretaries have been directed to start visiting the merged districts, while the cabinet would get an update on progress either through special cabinet meetings every two months or an agenda item in the every second meeting.
The planning and development Fata would cease to exist with all its functions to be assigned to the KP P&D and all internationally funded programmes to shift to KP along with the directorate projects which would now report directly to the ACS (P&D), KP.
Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2019