PESHAWAR: Members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from tribal districts took the floor on Monday to express anger at the government’s ‘poor’ response to its commitments made with the people of erstwhile Fata before the region was merged with the province.
This was the first protest by the lawmakers from the tribal districts since they joined the house in July 2019.
Members of the Balochistan Awami Party, who back the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the assembly, along with other opposition parties joined the protest.
However, PTI MPAs from the merged districts stay away from it.
Several members from the merged districts tied black bands on arms to protest the government’s ‘discrimination’ against the people of former Fata.
MPAs from region demand more assembly seats, review of changes to mines law
The lawmakers began protest when member of the Panel of Chairmen Mohammad Abdul Salam refused to give the floor to the Awami National Party MPA from Mohmand district to speak on a point of order.
Angry MPAs stood from their seats and rushed towards the speaker’s dais.
They began shouting slogans ‘give us our financial rights’ and ‘fulfil commitments with the people of former Fata’.
They also criticised the chair for not letting them speak about their demands and issues.
The chair did not pay heed to the protesting MPAs’ demands and adjourned the sitting until 2pm today (Tuesday).
MPAs from tribal districts released 12 points charter of demands to the media.
According to the charter, the government should get 26th Constitutional Amendment passed by the Senate to increase the number of seats for merged areas in the KP Assembly and review the recent amendments to the law on mines and minerals.
They also demanded the transitional special concessions and indemnity package for 10 years, three per cent share in the National Finance Commission award, permission of cross-border movement for the people living on both sides of the Durand Line, and the establishment of an advisory committee comprising parliamentarians and technocrats.
Earlier, the government informed the assembly during question hour that 100 out of a total of 227 flour mills had been closed down in the province.
According to the official reply to a question, all nine flour mills in merged districts had been closed. Also, 14 of Peshawar’s 45 mills and 13 of Abbottabad’s 18 have been shut down.
Jamaat-i-Islami MPA Sirajuddin raised the issue.
Food minister Qalandar Khan Lodhi did not explain reasons for the closure of mills.
He rejected the claim of Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Nighat Yasmin Orakzai about the smuggling of wheat and flour to Afghanistan.
The elementary and secondary education also came under discussion during the question hour.
Responding to identical questions of MPAs Inayatullah Khan, Sobia Shahid and Sahibzada Sanaullah, minister Akbar Ayub claimed that a number of out-of-school children in the province had declined due to the Education Emergency imposed in 2014.
He said the government’s focus was on the improvement of quality of education in public sectors schools and that 90 to 95 per cent basic facilities in schools like washrooms and boundary walls had been provided.
The minister said community schools produced good results compared to other schools, so the government would allocate funds for the opening of community schools in far-flung areas.
The official reply claimed that the government was spending Rs23,290 on every student of primary and secondary schools annually.
MPA Inayatullah Khan castigated the concerned department for providing incorrect information to the house.
He said the privilege of the house had been breached by the relevant officials by furnishing wrong information and therefore, action should be taken against them.
The lawmaker said the spending on students in remote districts was less than other districts like Peshawar, Mardan and Abbottabad.
The minister did not contest the claim.
Three questions related to elementary and secondary education were referred to the house’s committee concerned.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government Rest Houses and Tourism Properties (Development, Management and Regulation) Bill, 2020, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Panahgah Bill, 2019, were passed.
The house didn’t take up the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Protection against Harassment of Women at Work Place (Amendment) Bill, 2019, due to the adjournment of the proceedings.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020