Govt, judiciary vying to take over Khyber Levies training centre

Updated March 15, 2020

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The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and the judiciary are vying to take over the US-funded under construction Shakass Levies Training Centre in Khyber tribal district, while the donor has insisted that the facility should be specifically used for the purpose for which funds were approved by the US Congress. — Reuters/File
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and the judiciary are vying to take over the US-funded under construction Shakass Levies Training Centre in Khyber tribal district, while the donor has insisted that the facility should be specifically used for the purpose for which funds were approved by the US Congress. — Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and the judiciary are vying to take over the US-funded under construction Shakass Levies Training Centre in Khyber tribal district, while the donor has insisted that the facility should be specifically used for the purpose for which funds were approved by the US Congress.

Sources told Dawn that Khyber district’s judiciary wanted to relocate from its transitional premises in Peshawar to the training centre temporarily.

The provincial cabinet in a meeting on Feb 25 decided to convert the facility into a training centre for Rescue 1122.

The sources said the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs-Pakistan, which provides $5.9 million funds for the construction of the training centre at Shakass, had strongly opposed the use of the facility for any other purpose.

Sources said the INL, which funded other projects, had conveyed to the relevant authorities that the violation of the memorandum of understanding would not only create misunderstanding between the government and donor but it was also likely to impact future financial assistance to the province.

Donor opposes use of under-construction facility for any other purpose

“The INL (Pakistan) has conveyed to the authorities that funds are approved by the US Congress for a specific purpose and the facility is meant for the same. Any violation in the mode of utilisation of the funds or facility will not only create a grave concern but will also lead to the stoppage of further aid in all fields by the US government,” according to official documents.

INL head of public affairs section Scot Robinson did not reply to an email of this correspondent.

“We are being sandwiched between the provincial government and the judiciary in the prevailing scenario,” said an official dealing with the development side in the district.

Interestingly, the provincial government has fixed gaze on the takeover of the training centre but it ignored around 35 employees including ministerial staff hired for the project and training of the Levies Force.

“The government seems interested only in taking over the property and is not ready to own us,” said an employee at the facility.

The centre is being set up over 300 acres of land in Shakass area of Bara tehsil of Khyber district. It will initially cater to the training needs of 28,000 personnel of Levies and Khasadar forces, the law-enforcement arm of the administration in the erstwhile Fata.

The contract for the construction of the training facility having capacity to accommodate 400 trainees with boarding facilities, parade ground and firing range was awarded to the Frontier Corps (North). Work on the project began in 2011 and is likely to finish by the end of April 2020.

Sources said militancy had delayed the completion of the project.

Following the merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 28,000 Levies and Khasadar personnel have been absorbed into the provincial police, while the law and order section of the defunct Fata Secretariat was handed over to the home department.

The merger and subsequent developments, including the absorption of tribal districts’ law- enforcement agencies into police, gave other departments ideas about taking over the training centre.

Sources told Dawn that on Feb 17, the additional district and session judge of Khyber district chaired a meeting, which discussed the taking over of two blocks of the training centre for shifting of the district courts temporarily until the construction of the district judicial complex.

The meeting was informed that the registrar of the Peshawar High Court visited the training centre in Oct 2019 regarding the establishment of a judicial complex and making necessary modifications and arrangements in the training centre to meet the requirements of the district judiciary.

The meeting decided to bring the issue to the notice of the PHC registrar with a request to convene a meeting of the chief secretary, inspector general of police, inspector general of Frontier Corps (North), secretary of the home and tribal affairs department and INL officials for the early handing and taking over of the proposed building.

In the meanwhile, the relief, rehabilitation and settlement department managed to push a summary proposing to shift the centre into training academy for Rescue 1122 through the provincial cabinet on Feb 25.

Sources said after the cabinet’s approval, the department concerned would approach the FC for handing over the facility to Rescue 1122.

Official sources said the police were interested to retain the control of the sprawling facility instead of handing it over to any other department.

They said after the absorption of Levies and Khasadar forces, the strength of the province’s police had totalled over 100,000.

They said the existing police training college in Hangu did not have sufficient space and capacity to cater to the needs of the police.

The sources said the police department had pointed out security issues of the building in case of utilisation other than the training school for Levies.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2020