PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday all four provinces of the country should give three percent of their share of the National Finance Commission award, a programme aimed at fixing financial imbalances among the centre and provinces, to the northwestern tribal belt, a region that has for decades suffered from a lack of national investment.
Last year, Pakistan’s parliament passed legislation to merge the country’s tribal regions along the Afghan border with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, a key step in ending the area’s colonial era governance system and giving equal rights and resources to its five million population.
Without provincial status, the tribals regions have remained backward and underdeveloped. Much of the area lacks clean water and has little to no health care, education, telecommunication and infrastructure facilities.
“Let me assure you that KP and Punjab will pay their due share [from the National Finance Commission Award] since [the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party] is in power in both the provinces,” Prime Minister said in Bajaur at his first rally in the newly merged tribal areas. “But I want to tell Balochistan and Sindh that they should give a portion of their share as well to honour the sacrifices rendered by the tribal people for the country.”
The old system of colonial laws in the tribal regions denied basic legal rights to its people. Coupled with the lack of economic development, the regulations led to an enduring sense of neglect and disenfranchisement.
Due to their lawless, the tribal regions also became an easy haven for militants, gun runners and drug smugglers. The Pakistani military has carried out dozens of military operations to flush out militants in the last decade, causing mass internal displacement of tribal populations.
“Everyone knows that the tribal people faced unspeakable tragedies, and it is now time for them to see development [in their area],” he said. “Our government has approved Rs. 2 billion in loans for the tribal youth on zero markup and easy installments. The idea is to help these young people to establish their own businesses.”
Commenting on recent tensions with arch-rival India, Khan said Pakistan wanted peaceful coexistence with all its neighbours and had repeatedly asked New Delhi to come to the negotiating table and pushed to promote trade and commerce in the region.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed Kashmir region that both administer in part but claim in full. Last month, the two countries almost went to war after India blamed Pakistan for a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir in which at least 40 Indian troopers were killed.
“We want peace with all our neighbours because we want to move ahead in the world,” the prime minister said. “We don’t want war but no one should take that as our weakness. We want amicable resolution of the Kashmir issue since the entire world is watching how atrocities are perpetrated against the Kashmiri people,” Khan added.
“I’m ready to do anything for my country. I can even negotiate with [Indian Prime Minister] Narendra Modi for the benefit of Pakistan,” he said.
The prime minister also expressed optimism about ongoing talks between the US and Afghan Taliban to find a negotiated settlement to a 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.