PESHAWAR: Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao on Sunday said the tribal people rendered unprecedented sacrifices for the restoration of peace; therefore, the government must take steps to mitigate their sufferings.
He was addressing a conference titled “Fata merger, issues and solutions” arranged by the Pakhtunkhwa Jamhoori Ittehad (PJI) at the Nishtar Hall in Peshawar.
The PJI leaders, including its convener Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao, Mukhtiar Bacha of National Party Pakhtunkhwa Wahdat, Afzal Shah Khamosh of Mazdoor Kisan Party, Ajmal Afridi of Pakhtunkhwa Ulasi Tehreek, Shahab Khattak of Awami Workers Party, known lawyer Abdul Latif Afridi, former MNA Shahjee Gul Afridi, former MPA Yasmeen Lehri from Balochistan, Malik Misal Khan Orakzai of Fata Youth Jirga and Jangrez Khan Mohmand spoke on the occasion.
Aftab Sherpao said the government should honour its pledge of spending Rs100 billion annually for 10 years in the tribal districts so that the destroyed schools, hospitals and other infrastructure could be rebuilt and projects launched for the wellbeing of the tribal people.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has been unable to evolve consensus and persuade the provinces to contribute three percent of their budget to the uplift of the tribal districts,” he pointed out.
Casting aspersions on the census in the former Fata, the QWP leader said thousands of the tribal people had been displaced from their homes due to militancy and subsequent military operations therefore the data collected during the headcount was questionable.
He said after the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the chief minister was the chief executive of the province, including the tribal districts, but the governor was still meddling in the affairs of the former tribal areas.
He demanded the demining of the landmines, resolving the issue of the missing persons and abolishing the security checkpoints in the district districts to help bring an end to the miseries of the local population. He said the government should change the relevant rules to facilitate the merger of the Khassadar and Levies force into the KP police.
Aftab Sherpao said the election for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seats from the merged districts and the local government polls should be timely held to give representation to the tribes people in the provincial legislature and devolve power at the grassroots.
He said almost all the political parties had strived for the merger of the former Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa therefore the government must not miss the opportunity and should come up to the expectations of the tribal population.
He said that some circles still had reservations about the Fata-KP merger, urging the government to address their grievances or else it could lead to alienation among the people.
“It would lead to uncertainty if the issues pertaining to the merged districts were put on the backburner,” Aftab Sherpao remarked.
The moot also adopted a 20-point declaration that called for efforts to address the issue of terrorism and extremism in the tribal districts.
It said the KP chief minister and the provincial cabinet should have powers with regard to the tribal districts. The announcement about the merger of the Khassadar and Levies personnel must be implemented and the people affected by acts of terrorism compensated, it added.
The government was asked to set up seven industrial zones in tribal districts and exempt these from taxes for 20 years along with the provision of gas and electricity at subsidized rates.
The irrigation system should be improved, a fund set up to give loans to the tribal youth for starting businesses and banks and other financial institutions should be established to facilitate people. The declaration demanded that seven universities, seven DHQ hospitals, three medical and engineering colleges, nursing and teachers training institutes should be established in the tribal districts.
It said that easement rights should be ensured on both sides of the border within an area of 11 kilometers and trade activities facilitated. The declaration demanded the audit and the details of all the foreign funds announced for the former tribal areas during the war on terror.
Two separate resolutions were also passed at the moot that called for removing the name of Dr Said Alam Mahsud from the Exit Control List so that he could go abroad for treatment and taking steps to address the grievances of the Hazara community and provide them protection.