FATA reforms: Provinces averse to sharing receipts from NFC award

Published: November 19, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: Provinces’ reluctance to share with Fata the money allocated to them under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award is one of the major reasons behind delay in the implementation of reforms in tribal areas, apart from the government’s failure to persuade two of its allies over the area’s merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had, in the recent meeting of the Fata committee, categorically stated that the provinces were not ready to pay from their NFC Award for reforms in tribal areas.

“Except for Balochistan, no other province is ready to pay from their kitty,” said PML-N’s Member of National Assembly Shahbuddin, who was present in the meeting. He said the PM categorically told them that provinces were unwilling to share their piece of cake with Fata.

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The Lawmaker from Fata further stated that opposition parties were also not pushing the agenda as they had vested interests in Sindh, K-P and Punjab. He added that deposed PM Nawaz Sharif was more serious in Fata reforms to the extent that he once stated in a meeting that if the provinces did not pay from their divisible pool, the federal government would pay from its own share.

According to the recommendations from the Fata reforms committee, a 10-year development plan has to start with an aim to bring the tribal belt on a par with the rest of the country. For the purpose, the NFC would be asked to allocate 3% from the divisible pool for the implementation of the plan.

Apart from Shahbuddin, two finance ministry officials have also confirmed the opposition from the provinces.

“Persistent opposition was witnessed during various meetings with provincial heads and bureaucracy on the question of sharing from the NFC award,” said a ministry officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Federal Minister for States and Frontiers Region (Safron) Ghalib Khan, when contacted, said they were working on the issue and would soon reach an amicable solution.

When asked about opposition from the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, the minister said, “We are negotiating… [going for] some give and take.” But he did not elaborate on the nature of negotiations.

After Ghalib Khan was given the charge of the Safron ministry, the reforms committee has also taken a new turn.

In October, Ghalib chaired a meeting of Fata lawmakers who demanded immediate merger of the tribal areas with K-P. They also made other demands.

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“We are doing our part of the job, and it is the government and other powerful stakeholders who have the final say,” said Fata MNA Sajid Hussain Turi, who was also part of that meeting.

The government is also facing problems at the legal front as the Rewaj bill was struck down by the National Assembly when it was introduced in the standing committees.

One ministry official, however said nobody knew who was doing what on the Fata reforms.

Another official lamented, “There is no infrastructure in Fata to support the policing and justice system even if the merger is announced, while the Fata lawmakers have opposed the Rewaj Bill without knowing its essence.”

He said that with an inexperienced staff and non-availability of revenue record, “how would the things move on?”

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