PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has feared that the imposition of taxes in the erstwhile federally and provincially administered tribal areas will cause industrial relocation and unemployment in the region, leading to the resurgence of militancy.

During a provincial assembly session on the supplementary budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 here, climate change and forestry minister Fazal Hakim Khan warned that if taxes were imposed in the erstwhile Fata and Pata, businesses would relocate back to their original locations, causing economic and social instability in the region.

He said people from Karachi and Lahore transported industrial raw materials to the Malakand division and merged tribal districts only because it was a tax-free region.

The minister wondered why anyone would do so if there is no price difference.

He said unemployment was the only reason for militancy in the region in 2008.

Minister complains in PA that centre didn’t clear province’s dues despite repeated requests

“People were unemployed and had nothing to do, so they took up arms. If this happens again, then only the federal government will be to blame,” he told the session chaired by Speaker KP Assembly Babar Saleem Swati.

While discussing the supplementary budget, Pakistan Peoples Party member Ahmad Kundi said he would withdraw his cut motion only if the government asked the federal government for the report on the National Finance Commission Award.

He said the government was bound by Article 163(A) of the Constitution to lay the NFC report in the house.

“Our finance minister should write a letter to federal authorities for the NFC report, which carries details of government expenditure and the funds given away by the federal government as net hydel profit, gas royalty, and state transfers,” he said.

The PPP lawmaker said if the federal government was not sharing those details, the provincial government should send it a letter of displeasure.

Finance minister Aftab Alam Afridi assured him that he had noted down that point for action.

He said almost half of the budget for the fiscal year 2022–23 was spent by the caretaker government.

The minister said the province wrote 12 letters to the centre for the clearance of its dues but got promises and not releases.

The house also discussed the current situation in Kyrgyzstan and demanded Pakistani students be brought back from Kyrgyzstan.

Higher education minister Meena Khan Afridi insisted that the federal government and Pakistan embassy in Kyrgyzstan behaved irresponsibly over riots in a Kyrgyz university that left some Pakistani students injured.

He said the provincial government intervened to bring back those students and created a toll-free number for them.

“Six hundred students got themselves registered on our toll-free number,” he said.

Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Dr Ibadullah Khan defended the federal government on the issue and said it sprang into action shortly after learning about riots at the Kyrgyz university, and directed the ambassador to visit hostels to ensure students’ safety.

“The situation [in the Kyrgyz university] is normal now but even if anyone wants to return, they [the federal government] will bring them back bearing expanses,” he said.

The opposition members later withdrew their cut motion, prompting the speaker to announce that the approval of the supplementary budget would be taken from the house today [Tuesday].

As the chair allowed lawmakers to speak, treasury member Mian Mohammad Umar said all PTI-backed candidates contested elections and won them defying all odds.

He added that those poll nominees stayed away from home to prevent the post-May 9 police crackdown.

The MPA wondered why 3000–4000 police personnel, who were deployed ahead of the corps commander’s house in Lahore, didn’t stop mob attacks in the cantonment area, where even the ministers couldn’t enter without permission.

He claimed his mother would receive calls with death threats for him, but she pledged to stand for the truth.

Mr Umar said Pakistan was a democratic state on paper only.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl member Lutfur Rehman claimed that the results of the 2024 general elections were changed.

Treasury member Anwar Zeb said development of the merged tribal districts was possible only if there was peace.

He claimed that official guards were being withdrawn from all those who didn’t condemn the May 9, 2023, incidents.

The chair later adjourned the session until 2pm today [Tuesday] after the opposition members pointed out a lack of quorum in the house.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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