Senate panel irked over treatment of NMTD students

Committee suggests daily meetings to review progress on doubling their educational quota

​ Our Correspondent October 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A panel on states and frontier regions (SAFRON) on Monday expressed its displeasure at students from the newly merged tribal districts (NMTDs) being ignored in medical and other educational institutions despite directions to double quota for these students.

This was expressed during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) which met with Senator Taj Afridi in the chair in the Parliament House in Islamabad on Monday.

The committee’s chair said that he was disappointed over the fact that none of the institutions could give a satisfactory answer.

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Committee members also expressed dissatisfaction over a briefing given by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) home department over doubling the quota for medical students from the NMTDs. The chairman committee said that despite the passage of two years, the cabinet’s decision has yet to be implemented.

The committee expressed that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other institutions were using timewasting tactics.

The chairman said that several problems have developed since the tribal areas were merged with K-P while institutions were responsible for it. Afridi said that it was time to determine who was truly responsible for this.

Senator Attaur Rehman said that resources have been plundered in the name of erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (Fata) while students from these areas were being pushed into a corner unnecessarily.

The committee’s chairman said that the attitude shown by the institutions and the ministers who had testified before the committee betrayed their decision to keep people from the tribal areas deprived.

He added that if this behaviour continues, the committee will summon daily meetings to review progress made in the issue from October 21. Afridi warned that the committee may even approach Prime Minister Imran Khan for a resolution to the issue.

Meanwhile, SAFRON secretary took responsibility for calling a meeting of HEC, home department and other related officials to evolve a positive outcome on the matter.

The committee also decided to summon the chief secretaries, cabinet secretaries, provincial health secretaries and senior officials of all relevant institutions to ensure that the promises made with people of NMTDs are fulfilled.

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Separately, officials from K-P’s forest department briefed the committee about release orders for timber stock in the Khyber tribal district.

Officials said that they will estimate determine the quantity of wood through the estimated cost of the consignment, adding that permission will only be granted after completing all legal steps.

The committee said that the issue has been pending for many years and a lot of time has been wasted already. Afridi said that thousands of people depend on this sector for their livelihood.

The committee emphasized on providing a relief package to farmers of NMTDs from the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB). Committee members further expressed that terrorism has badly affected agricultural land in the NMTDs, therefore it was necessary to provide a relief package to the tribal people.

The committee was told that a relief package worth Rs274 million had been recommended to the prime minister and it was expected to be approved soon.

The meeting was attended by senators including Aurangzeb Khan, Shamim Afridi, Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan Nasar, Attaur Rehman, Hillalur Rehman, Fida Muhammad and other related officials. 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2019.

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