Chief Minister Mahmood Khan speaks during an interactive session with students in Peshawar on Tuesday.
Chief Minister Mahmood Khan speaks during an interactive session with students in Peshawar on Tuesday.

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan on Tuesday told students at an auditorium that his government had allocated Rs82 billion -- the largest ever allocation -- for the development of tribal districts.

“Successful integration of tribal districts with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a daunting challenge for the provincial government. Seventy years of inadequate laws and persistent security challenges for the past decades coupled with strong anti-merger elements had left the tribal districts without any sort of development infrastructure and facilities,” he said.

The interactive session with the students from universities and colleges held at Institute of Management Sciences (IM Sciences) Peshawar, turned out to be a lively event, often leading to laughter and applauds.

Radio and television talk show host Fasi Zaka was the moderator. His opening comments about his inability to find Mahmood Khan’s smiling photograph online, evoked quite laughter. “My Facebook ID has a smiling DP,” the chief minister retorted.

Mahmood Khan’s interactive session with students turns into a lively event

Similarly, a question by one of the students about Peshawar’s BRT completion timeframe, led to laughter from a packed auditorium. “This is the most difficult question,” the chief minister remarked, before acknowledging it was a mistake to give the six-month completion time.

He, however, said that the Rs68 billion project would be completed by the end of the year and would prove to be a good service for the people of Peshawar. “Peshawar belongs to all of us from Bannu to Swat,” he added.

The chief minister was accompanied by members of his cabinet, advisers and secretaries from various departments, who responded to questions from the participants on the performance and future planning of the government.

Mr Khan said that his government had stood up to the challenge and made the merger a success by extending the jurisdiction of provincial departments and conducting successful provincial assembly elections to due representation in the provincial government.

He said that huge allocation had been made for the uplift of schools, hospitals, generating livelihood opportunities and development of infrastructure and communication channels in the newly merged tribal districts.

Commenting on the provincial economy, the chief minister stated that 92 per cent of provincial receipts came from the federal government. “We are taking pragmatic steps to increase the provincial revenue generation by introducing reforms and developmental initiatives in the tourism, mines and mineral and energy sector,” he said.

He informed the audience that the tourism Act had been recently enacted under which tourism zones would be established in the province to attract domestic and international tourists. He added that maximum influx of tourists was observed in the current year due to the reforms of the incumbent government.

With regards to the energy sector, the chief minister stated that 74 megawatts of electricity had been added in the national grid that would generate Rs2 billion per year to the provincial exchequer.

Furthermore, 12 megawatts of electricity generated by the province would be directly provided to five industrial estates of the province under the wheeling regime which would not only ensure increased revenue generation of the province but would also provide cheap electricity to industrial units thereby interacting the investors and promoting industrialisation.

To a query regarding development of trade relation with neighbouring countries, the chief minister stated that the opening of Torkham border with Afghanistan for 24/7 was done to promote trade and commerce in the region and establish Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as a transit route to central Asian countries.

“We are committed to make Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a hub for regional trade and commerce. Swat Expressway Phase-II, Chakdara to Gilgit via Chitral and Shandor and Peshawar to DI Khan Motorway will make the province a transit hub for regional trade and commerce,” said Mr Khan.

To another question regarding anti-corruption measures, he said that provincial government was undertaking strict monitoring of the district administrations to root out corrupt practices. He said that recently 103 patwaris had been posted out on intelligence reports.

Opening remarks by the chief minister were followed by a presentation from Finance Minister Taimoor Salim Khan Jhgar in which he elaborated how the government had focused on development by cutting government expenditures and diverting those funds to development.

He said that they were able to cut expenditures by Rs95 billion and allocated it for development. Also, Rs203 billion left from the budgets was reinvested back and as a result KP had the largest development budget in the province history, which was bigger than Sindh and equaled the development budget of Punjab.

Minister for Communication and Works Akbar Ayub, Adviser to Chief Minister on Energy and Power Hamayatullah, administrative secretaries of different departments, director of IM Sciences Dr Mohsin Khan and different higher education officials and students from various universities and colleges also attended the session.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2019