GHALANAI/ LANDI KOTAL: Prime Minister Imran Khan performed on Thursday groundbreaking of the Mohmand dam project, which would generate 800 megawatts electricity and store over 1.2 million acre feet of water, and on the occasion pledged to take steps for development of backward areas across the country, especially the tribal areas.
Wearing a traditional turban gifted to him, he said one of the reasons why the previous rulers didn’t build dams during the last couple of decades was their lack of far-sightedness and vision.
These rulers were more interested in launching projects that could be completed within their tenures, said Mr Khan. “Because a dam cannot be completed in, say, five years they didn’t think of building one. But our government will take steps to develop all the backward areas without any regard for political benefits that could be obtained from such projects.”
He said the Chinese government managed to lift 700 million people out of poverty within three decades because it didn’t think of petty political interests, and instead took the steps that proved beneficial in the long run.
All the parties to the National Finance Commission had agreed that they would allow the government to set aside three per cent from the divisible pool for the development of the tribal areas, he said.
Says efforts should be made to meet tribal people’s needs because their youths are being incited against the state under a conspiracy
“But the provinces are now reluctant to allow any reduction in their shares. However, we will persuade them to fulfil their promise and we will be spending Rs100 billion annually on the tribal areas in the next 10 years.”
Mr Khan announced a special grant for the uplift of Mohmand district.
He said tribal areas had been lagging far behind the other parts of the country and were facing a host of problems. “But these problems are similar. All the tribal areas lack education and health facilities. There is a water shortage in many of them. And they all lack employment opportunities.”
Terrorism and extremism exacerbated the problems there, said the prime minister. “Many people lost their shops, their livelihood. Many had to migrate to other places.
“That’s why I feel that it’s our duty and the duty of the other provinces to help develop these areas.”
Mr Khan said that taking care of the needs of tribal people was vitally important because under a conspiracy their youths were being incited against the state. The entire nation would have to be vigilant to counter such threats.
He lauded the efforts made by the armed forces to restore the law and order situation in the once troubled areas. “We know that without stability and rule of law we simply cannot have investment and progress in these areas. So, it’s because of the tremendous sacrifices made by our military that we are seeing this day.”
He reminded the audience that despite two attempts the British could not conquer the Tirah valley. “But today I visited that same valley. That’s a testament to the bravery and sacrifices of our army men.”
Praising former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, he said it was not the Supreme Court’s duty to launch a special fund for the construction of the Mohmand and Diamer-Bhasha dams. “However, Chief Justice Nisar had to take the step because the past governments had failed to do their duty.”
The prime minister also praised the efforts of Wapda chairman retired Lt Gen Muzamil Hussain who he said “is passionate about building dams”.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, Senator Faisal Javed and legislators from the tribal areas were present on the occasion.
Meanwhile, upon completion the Mohmand dam will bring about 17,000 acres of barren land under cultivation.
The dam is being constructed on Swat river, at the confluence of the Mohmand and Charsadda districts and the reservoir area extends upstream to Mohmand, Bajaur and other northern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Its reservoir will supply 13.32 million cubic metres of water to Peshawar city.
Visit to Tirah valley
Earlier, Mr Khan attended the closing ceremony of a weeklong sports gala in Tirah that was once a “no-go” region. He was the country’s first prime minister to visit the area.
A large number of tribal people welcomed the prime minister by chanting slogans for him and the armed forces.
A contingent of the Frontier Corps presented a guard of honour. Mr Khan later distributed trophies among the winning teams and players. The festival titled Bagh-i-Amn began on April 25.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2019