PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that Rs100 billion would be spent annually on the development of 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 tribal 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.
“We plan to spend 100 billion rupees annually for the development of the newly-merged districts,” Khan said while addressing tribal elders in the Spinkai Raghzai area of South Waziristan. “We will spend huge amounts of money here that has never been spent during the past 70 years.”
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.
Khan announced that two degree colleges would be built in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, and said sports grounds would be constructed throughout the district. He said each family would receive the Sehat Insaf insurance card, allowing for medical treatment of up to Rs.720,000 annually at any government hospital.
Khan said his government was also planning to build 100 kilometers of roads to connect small villages with main towns in South Waziristan, and would focus on constructing small dams to overcome potable water issue. He also promised jobs for the youth of the erstwhile tribal districts.