Senate panel asks for NMTD students’ quota increase

Directs provincial govt to lower funds through-forward, industries to resolve issue with power utility

​ Our Correspondent September 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A panel of lawmakers from the upper house of Parliament on Friday called for increasing quota for students from the newly-merged tribal districts.

The committee further called for lowering the throw-forward of development project costs onto the next fiscal year.

This was directed as the Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions (Safron) met at the Parliament House on Friday with Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi in the chair.

The committee was told that quotas for engineering students from the erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (Fata) have been doubled from 108 to 216 by the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC). Moreover, quota in other disciplines has also been increased from 1,719 to 3,192 seats following a decision made by the federal cabinet in March 2017.

The panel asked the Safron ministry to hold a consultative meeting with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) to sort out the issue of quotas for medical students from the newly-merged tribal districts (NMTDs) in different medical universities and colleges across the country.

Equal opportunity: 5% quota for minorities proposed in varsities

The committee also discussed the issue of regularising employees of health projects in the tribal districts. The body was briefed that around 1,900 people employed by 30 projects are awaiting regularization.

Moreover, the health department is willing to move ahead with the regularisation of these employees but the process requires supporting the legislation.

Health department officials said that a summary for the required legislation will be moved soon. The committee gave the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) health department two weeks to move the summary and to submit a report once done. Moreover, it asked the provincial government to treat these employees just as it treats contract employees in the settled districts.

Discussing the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the ex-Fata areas, the committee was told that some Rs103.038 billion has been allocated for the area during the ongoing fiscal year. It includes a local component of Rs24 billion, foreign assistance of Rs20.03 billion and tribal decade strategy funds worth Rs59 billion for 884 ongoing and 134 new schemes. The plan is to complete 274 schemes in FY 2019-20.

The local component, officials said, has been consistent at Rs24 billion for the past two financial years. In the fiscal year 2017-18, only Rs20 billion were released while in FY 2018-19, the full allocation of Rs24 billion was released.

In FY 2019-20, four of the allocated Rs24 billion have been released.

The committee expressed its concern over the excessive throw-forward of Rs64.863 billion and recommended lowering the number of projects in each financial year to complete projects on time.

The committee also discussed the supply of power to industries in NMTDs and erstwhile provincially administered tribal areas (Pata) including the crush, soapstone and marble industries.

Foreign student quota: Unfilled seats to be given to deserving students

Tribal Electric Supply Company (TESCO) chief executive told the meeting that his firm is catering to 442,671 consumers, including 402,040 domestic consumers. Most of these consumers, the TESCO official said, are receiving subsidized power without paying their bills.

A mere 4,247 are industrial consumers of which many are unregistered. Unregistered metres and non-regularised loads are the biggest contributors to TESCO’s losses, the official said.

The committee also heard representatives of the local industry and asked the utility supplier and consumers to put their heads together for a solution on metering, load management and payment of bills in the area.

The committee was also briefed on a public petition regarding difficulties faced by Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

Discussing a question regarding the establishment of a land settlement unit in NMTDs after the merger with K-P, the committee was told that a project concept-I (PC-I) has been prepared for land settlement and creation of GIS-based digital geo-mapping of seven sub-divisions. 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2019.

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