PESHAWAR: For all the hype around the mainstreaming of the merged areas, representatives from the region in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly feel alienated from the treasury and opposition, finding little support for highlighting issues affecting the people of erstwhile Fata.

This sense of frustration was palpable during the recent in-house protests of political leaders from the tribal districts against what they called reneging of the government on commitments made under the 25th Amendment under which Fata was integrated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

These commitments included giving the tribal districts three per cent share in National Finance Commission (NFC) Award amounting to Rs100 billion per annum for development works, minerals’ royalty besides administrative and judicial reforms. This was aimed at socio-economic uplift of the area at par with the rest of the province and country.

Contrary to this, the ongoing in-house protest underscored what the merged area lawmakers from the opposition benches called a deliberate effort to push the region back into its former state of deprivation. Leave aside the commitments of the government, they say, even the opposition has abandoned them in their struggle to highlight this.

“We are disowned both by the government and opposition,” said ANP MPA Nisar Khan Mohmand from Mohmand tribal district, who is leading the protest inside the assembly. “But what hurts more is that the opposition, to whose ranks we belong, is paying only lip service to our demands. It is not sincere in expressing real solidarity with us,” he adds.

MPA Nisar Mohmand says neither govt nor opposition pays attention to their issues

A group of MPAs from the merged districts hailing from the opposition benches started protest in the assembly two weeks ago in favour of their demands. They want meeting with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to inform him about what they called the sorry state of affairs in the tribal districts. The chief minister rarely attends the assembly session. The last time he was seen in the house when budget for the current year was presented on June 19, 2020.

On Friday when the agitating MPAs resumed their protest and sat in front of the speaker’s dais, the opposition benches gave them a lukewarm response. Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani expressed brief remarks as a mark of solidarity with the protesting MPAs.

“The issue is that Opposition Leader Durrani has confined himself to highlight issues related to Bannu, his hometown, and parliamentary leaders of the other opposition parties do not bother to highlight merged districts’ problems,” lamented Nisar Mohmand.

Before adjourning the sitting, Law Minister Fazal Shakoor Khan informed the house that Mahmood Khan would meet MPAs of the merged districts at the Chief Minister’s House on Monday. MPA Nisar Mohmand told Dawn on Sunday that they had not been officially informed about meeting with the chief minister.

The only favour the provincial government has done to the merged districts is that two ministers from the region including Minister for Zakat and Ushr Anwarzeb Khan and Minister for Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Iqbal Wazir are included in the provincial cabinet; however, both of them are matriculate and even can hardly read Urdu.

On the other hand, Ghazi Ghazan Jaml, a foreign educated special assistant to chief minister from Orakzai tribal district, was removed from power corridors to make room for traditional politicians.

“We are being treated as second class citizens in the provincial assembly,” said Nisar Khan. He added that the grievances were also shared by Fata lawmakers from treasury benches.

KP government spokesperson Kamran Khan Bangash said that out of 21 lawmakers from tribal districts, only three or four were agitating and there was nothing substantial in their demands. “Despite that Chief Minister Mahmood Khan holds them in high regard and will meet them very soon,” he said.

He added that merged districts were on government priority. He said that development profile of the merged areas had been prepared and taskforce on merged areas met twice a month under the chair of the chief minister. He said that government had spent Rs48 billion on development schemes in the region during the current fiscal.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2021

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