PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Monday passed a tourism-related bill empowering the government to declare any area in the province as an integrated tourism zone, including wildlife parks, game reserves, national parks, and protected and reserved forests.
The new law, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Act, 2019, provides for the creation of the Provincial Tourism Strategy Board and the Culture and Tourism Authority with wide-ranging powers and the establishment of integrated tourism zones to which important laws, including those for forests, wildlife, environments and river protection, will not apply.
“The provincial government on the recommendation of the Tourism Strategy Board shall have the power to declare, by notification in the official Gazette, any area within the province as in integrated tourism zone,” said the law.
Under the law, the province will have the tourism police to operate under the culture and tourism authority and will create the posts of police personnel of tourism police and abolish posts as required.
Culture and tourism minister Mohammad Atif Khan moved a resolution for the passage of the bill.
The opposition members moved several amendments to the bill, which were defeated by voting.
Opposition tells PA law’s certain clauses threaten reserved, protected forests, wildlife, national parks
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal MPA Inayatullah Khan, who tabled more than one dozen amendments, vehemently opposed several clauses of the bill.
Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani chaired the sitting until break.
“Certain clauses of the bill are in clash with the spirit and rules of environmental laws and will pose threat to reserved forests, protected forests, wildlife and national parks,” observed Inayatullah while opposing the delegation of certain powers to the authority.
The opposition lawmaker said Pakistan was signatory to more than 17 protocols and international conventions, so the government should revisit some clauses related to natural resources.
He called for the exclusion of designated lands, including national parks and reserved forests, from the domain of the authority.
Mr Inayatullah said the local communities had a right to forests, while the creation of integrated tourism zones would create issues for royalty holders.
He said the people had already purchased lands in areas which were being created integrated tourism zones.
The tourism minister brushed aside the apprehension of the MMA lawmaker and insisted that the protection of forests was the government’s top priority as they’re very important for the promotion of tourism.
He said the bill was discussed with the relevant departments, while their reservations were addressed.
“The new authority will follow international standard and guidelines for tourism promotion, while the government will take more steps for the conservation of forests,” he said.
The new law says the authority will have the powers to acquire land for the purpose of promoting tourism and developing resorts, skiing facilities, hotels and other tourism related activities.
The government will notify the Provincial Tourism Strategy Board within two months to be headed by the chief minister.
The board will assess the impact of any development initiative or project, public or private, and issue guidelines to bring such initiatives in line with the provincial tourism strategy.
Under the new law, there will be the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Culture and Tourism Authority to be headed by the director general.
Elaborating on the powers and functions of the tourism police, the law says the new force will facilitate tourists by imparting information about location, transport system, facilities, legal assistance, shopping centers, accommodation, cultural norms and medical help.
One major function of the force will be to maintain an updated record of known eve teasers, fraudsters, unauthorised tour guides, harassers, and other disreputable elements for each destination.
The government will set up the Tourism Fund.
The authority may, by regulations, require the payment of a tourism levy from persons engaged in tourism products or from tourists.
The government deferred the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Excise Duty on Minerals (Labour Welfare) Bill, 2019, after revenue minister Shakeel Khan opposed it.
The minister said the government had been collecting excise duty under the existing law.
He said contractor Kausar from Nowshera district had illegally begun the collection of duty in Malakand.
After consultation, mines and minerals minister Amjad Ali Khan said the bill had been deferred.
The house condemned the killing of JUI-F leader Maulana Mohammad Hanif and others in a bomb blast in Chaman area of Balochistan and offered Fateha for them.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2019