Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak informed the provincial legislature on Thursday that the governor and corps commander, along with himself, were not aware of the timing of the North Waziristan operation.
Responding to points raised by opposition members, Khattak said the day the operation was launched, he attended a meeting with Governor Mehtab Abbasi and Corps Commander Lt Gen Khalid Rabbani and both of them did not know about the timing of the offensive. The revelation comes as a surprise as any offensive in North Waziristan would have to have been planned and executed by the army’s 11 Corps in Peshawar.
However, Khattak said the government had been anticipating a military offensive in the region and those alleging it was caught unawares are wrong. “We were already preparing refugee camps and making other arrangements as precautionary measures,” he said.
Responding to members’ criticism about meagre allocations for internally displaced persons (IDP), Khattak said the province has allocated money to help the IDPs. However, he said, the province’s resources should not have been spent in the first place as the tribal areas fall under the federal government’s purview.
He said the government has opened its schools and colleges for the IDPs who will also be treated free of charge at government hospitals. Khattak asked opposition parties to support the government instead of indulging in a blame game. “The province and centre should jointly work on this issue,” he added.
Minister for Information Shah Farman informed the assembly that the provincial government has allocated Rs350 million to help IDPs.
The matter cropped up when opposition leader Maulana Lutfur Rehman, on a point of order, drew the house’s attention towards the killing of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Senator Saleh Shah’s son in FR Tank.
Rehman condemned the killing, saying the government should take measures to stop the killing of political workers and activists.
Awami National Party’s Sardar Hussain Babak demanded an effective and targeted operation against enemies of the state and said civilian casualties should be avoided.
He called for helping IDPs according to Pukhtunwali and humanity. Qaumi Watan Party’s Sikandar Sherpao said the government should have prepared for the situation and should not hide behind the excuse of not being informed in advance.
The provincial legislature continued debating budget proposals on its third day and members from both sides of the aisle discussed the document’s pros and cons.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Nighat Orakzai criticised the budget for ignoring women development, saying 52% of the population had been sidelined by the government. Orakzai said women voted for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in high numbers but the government has failed to initiate projects for their welfare. She claimed that minority and female members of the assembly were ignored when doling out development funds.
Speaking against regional disparity, JUI-F’s Mufti Syed Janan said Rs1,015 million has been allocated for Dir, Rs1,753 million for Nowshera, Rs850 million for Swabi and Rs940 million for Swat for the construction of roads. He said the sum allocated for the development of these four districts is more than double of that given to the southern districts.
However, Minister for Higher Education Mushtaq Ghani praised the budget. He dispelled the notion that Annual Development Programme funds had lapsed and claimed their utilization stood at 97%.
PPP’s Saleem Khan said Chitral district had been completely ignored in the budget, adding perhaps the Lowari Top obstructed the government’s view from seeing the largest district of the province which constitutes one-fifth of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s area.
Other lawmakers from both the opposition and treasury benches also discussed the budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2014.