PESHAWAR: People of tribal districts endured lack of basic facilities and lived under a rigid British-era law FCR until the last PML-N government abolished this law and merged these areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through 25th Constitutional Amendment.
The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan has been extended to tribal districts after the amendment and now the merger process and development project in the area are in full swing. The merger process has already shown dividends during one-year period. Some of the main dividends are as follows.
- Representation in KP Assembly:
The KP government was bound to hold provincial assembly elections in merged districts within one year. despite many speculations, the KP government conducted election on 16 general seats of tribal districts on July 20 in a peaceful and transparent manner. A total of 297 candidates contested the elections. Independent candidates won six seats, PTI won 5, JUI-F secured victory on 3 seats, while JI and ANP won one seat each. It was a big step in the merger process as now the MPAs of tribal districts will take part in legislation for the area and will raise voice for rights of the people in the Assembly.
- Extension of courts:
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Peshawar High Court (PHC) was immediately extended to tribal districts after the merger. Earlier, all the disputes in tribal districts were resolved through Jirgas which often favoured one party. Now the people of merged districts have the right to knock at the door of courts to get speedy and inexpensive justice. The chief justice of PHC issued orders of appointment of 28 judges – seven district and sessions judges, seven senior civil judges and 14 additional and district judges — for tribal districts in February this year. The provincial government has recently issued directions for shifting of all courts and district administration offices inside tribal districts to facilitate the masses.
- Sehat Insaf Cards:
Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated Sehat Insaf Cards scheme for tribal districts at a function in Islamabad on February 2, 2019. The holder of Insaf Card can spend up to Rs720,000 on his family’s healthcare within a year. The government says 1.1 million families in merged districts will benefit from the scheme. 110 hospitals have been designated to provide free of cost treatment to the holders of the cards.
- Insaf Rozgar Scheme:
The KP government launched Insaf Rozgar Scheme in tribal districts on April 15 to end unemployment in the area. The Bank of Khyber, which will give loans, says people aged between 18 to 50 years will be given loans who will have practical and profitable business plans. The loans will range from Rs50,000 to Rs1 million. The government has allocated Rs1 billion fund for the project in first phase.
- RTI Act:
On April 19, the KP government extended Right to Information Act to tribal districts under which all the government departments in tribal districts were directed by the Ministry of Information through a notification to appoint public information officers (PIOs). The citizens will contact the PIOs for obtaining information about any government department.
- Police system:
The Fata-KP merger created uncertainty among serving 28,000 personnel of Khassadar and Levies about their future. After several protests by the Levies and Khassadars, Chief Minister Mehmood Khan on April 8 announced to merge Khassadars and Levies into KP Police. Construction of police stations has been initiated in tribal districts and policemen are being deployed there. The government says the merger will be completed within six months and Levies and Khassadars will get all privilege like policemen. Now the citizens can visit any police station to lodge FIRs.
- KP Impact Challenge:
In the annual budget, the KP government decided to extend KP Impact Challenge program to tribal districts. The program is already implemented in KP for the last two years. Under the program, the provincial government will provide loans to educated tribal youth who will have workable and unique business ideas. The loans will range from Rs200,000 to Rs2 million. The KP government has allocated Rs2 billion for the youth this year which also include allocation for Impact Challenge program.
- 26th Constitutional Amendment:
A bill for increase of seats of tribal districts in KP Assembly was passed by the National Assembly on May 13. The 26th Constitutional Amendment bill was passed by the national assembly with 278 votes and no member opposed it. After approval of the amendment by the Senate and President of Pakistan, the total seats of tribal districts for National Assembly will increase from six to 12 and provincial assembly seats will increase from 16 to 24.
Besides these measures, the KP government is also working to promote tourism in tribal districts. The government has also announced playgrounds in all 25 sub-divisions of tribal districts.