PESHAWAR: Treasury and opposition members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday joined forces to oppose the government’s move to bring the erstwhile provincially and federally administered tribal areas into the tax net.

During a debate on the 2023-24 budget in the session chaired by Speaker Babar Saleem Swati, lawmakers claimed that their elders and rulers of the formerly princely states had agreed to annexation with Pakistan on the condition of tax exemption.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA Hamayoun Khan said it was an act of injustice to collect tax from people in the erstwhile Provincial Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) without providing basic facilities.

He said several princely states in the Malakand Division joined Pakistan in the 1960s after authorities promised not to collect tax.

Insist govt move to push residents into poverty

The lawmaker noted that the entire Malakand Division was shut on Tuesday against the government’s decision to bring the region into the tax net.

“We can unite with opposition members to claim our rights and due funds from the federal government,” he said.

Mr Khan insisted that the house shouldn’t pass a budget already utilised by the caretaker government unconstitutionally and illegally.

He demanded a house committee to probe irregularities in funds utilisation by caretakers.

He demanded that the chair establish a house committee to probe the irregularities in the funds utilisation by caretakers.

The MPA alleged that secretaries of different government departments took billions of rupees in kickbacks for the release of funds though they’re not authorised to do so.

“Official vehicles, fuel and other perks and privileges were illegally used as no one was there at that time to check it,” he said.

Another treasury member, Shafiullah Khan, urged the provincial government to sit with the federal government to amicably resolve the issue surrounding the imposition of taxes in the erstwhile Pata and Fata.

He said that bringing the underdeveloped areas of former tribal regions into the tax net would push the residents into poverty.

PTI MPA from Upper South Waziristan tribal district Asif Khan Mehsud complained about the killing of four members of a family in the region in an alleged drone strike.

He demanded the formation of a house committee comprising ruling and opposition members to probe the attack on innocent civilians.

“The committee should also find out whether it was a drone attack or a missile fired from across the border,” he said.

Mr Mehsud claimed that Waziristan residents were mercilessly killed.

The chair adjourned the sitting until 2pm today (Wednesday).

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Dr Ibadullah Khan held the current and former PTI governments responsible for the shutter down strike in Malakand Division.

“The PTI government did an injustice to the erstwhile Fata and Pata by abolishing their special status,” he told reporters on the assembly’s premises.

Dr Ibadullah said living standard of people in the erstwhile tribal areas was far below than that of other residents of the country.

He said the people of ex-Fata and ex-Pata were hit hard by the decades long terrorism as well as natural disasters.

“At the time of the merger of tribal areas with KP, the federal government had promised the provision of the additional funding of Rs100 billion to bring the region on a par with rest of the country but those funds were never released,” he said.

The opposition leader also criticised the provincial government over “unrealistic policies” saying the people of the province hadn’t seen any improvement in their lives in the last 10 years rule of the PTI.

“If this province is continued to be managed on the directives of a prisoner [PTI founder Imran Khan], then it will get nothing,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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