IT has been a little over three years now since the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were merged in KP with the commitment to correct 70 years of historical wrong done to its more than 5m people and to bring the latter’s lives at par with the rest of Pakistan. The 2016 Fata Reforms Committee led by senator Sartaj Aziz had pledged 3pc of the National Finance Commission award or Rs100bn per annum to improve infrastructure and create job opportunities for the tribespeople in a region with the lowest socioeconomic indicators in the country. Despite having across-the-board endorsement from the civil and military leaderships, that recommendation was never implemented. Finding lack of support from other provinces for the recommendation, a meeting held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan in December 2018 decided that the federal government together with KP and Punjab would provide 3pc of their share of the federal divisible pool to former Fata. Sadly, neither the federal government nor Punjab honoured their commitments, leaving KP to pick up the tab.
A report in this newspaper lays bare this stark reality. Not only did Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan fail to live up to their word, the federal government too fell short of its commitment by providing only 37pc of its promised uplift funds in the last three years. To rub salt into the wound, ex-Fata’s share in the seventh NFC award has been going to other provinces since the merger in May 2018. If there is growing impatience and dismay in the now merged tribal districts of KP, it is but understandable. The merger plan had raised hopes and expectations in the area and had held out the promise of a quick and visible turnaround in the lives of the people who had lived through decades of neglect, terrorism and displacement. The centre and the provinces need to realise the criticality of ex-Fata in view of the evolving situation in neighbouring Afghanistan and chip in — or else feel the impact of the negative fallout yet again.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2021