ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced that the government will fully concentrate on developing tribal areas as he assured financial grant to uplift the long-deprived areas which are now part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Addressing the inauguration ceremony of Nahakki Tunnel and Shaikh Zayed Road in Mohmand district, the prime minister said that tribal areas lagged behind in development for the last 70 years and it was one of his government’s priorities to establish industries in the region for the export of goods to Afghanistan and other Central Asian states.
He voiced the apprehension that the lack of development in the areas could be exploited by some elements to create instability.
Imran said that he feared “certain elements that do not want stability in these areas will try to plan something […] and they are fully funded by some foreign countries”. Therefore, he added, the government will concentrate on the full development of these areas so that plans of “certain elements” who do not want stability in those areas could be thwarted.
He said that the ideology of a nation reflected its direction, and the ideology of Pakistan — envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal — was to make the country a welfare state like the state of Medina which took care of widowed women, children, the elderly and poor people.
“[My government’s] desire is to lift up the weaker sections. When there is development in a country, it should be for the uplifting of all areas rather than the development of one area while the rest of them are left behind,” he said.
The premier added that the tribal areas had remained undeveloped because the votes of the people living there did not help any political party come into power. “Our [policy] is that we have to give the most attention to the most backward areas,” he said.
“We are making full efforts to spend maximum funds on tribal areas. It saddens me that provinces promised to give 30 per cent of NFC [National Finance Commission] Award to tribal areas before we came into power but now they are not ready to do that. I want to remind them that our religion and Holy Quran tell us to fulfil our promises,” he further said.
PM Imran said that KP had given the share from its award but other provinces had refused to do so, saying they were going through a difficult time. The premier said that he would ask other provinces to contribute their share as well, adding that he also asked the planning ministry to “complete funds required for the tribal areas from anywhere.”
PM Imran said that the Afghan border was being fenced to stop smuggling through the frontier. He said that the government was also establishing border markets for the people to provide employment opportunities through trade.
He termed the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue “good news” and said that if it was successful, it would bring a huge change in the tribal areas through increased trade.
“[The government] will try to help in the tribal areas as much as possible. Our desire is to establish industry here. We are trying to plant olive trees here. Our research shows olive trees grow best in these areas. It will earn money that you cannot think of,” he added.
Separately, the premier performed the groundbreaking of Timargarh-Khar-Mamad-Gat Road in Bajaur. KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also attended the ceremony, according to Radio Pakistan.
“I know what concerns the people had when [tribal areas] were being merged and how they would have been left behind without it,” PM Imran said on the occasion, emphasising his knowhow regarding tribal areas.
He added merging these areas with KP would facilitate trade and movement of people, which is why the decision is important. “It was previously very difficult for someone to come here if they wanted to set up an industry […] Our effort is to develop these areas so educational institutions and industries can be set up.”
Furthermore, the premier claimed that KP would be the first province to offer healthcare to all its residents. “I commend CM Mehmood Khan and his cabinet who took the decision. Complete health insurance is not available in most foreign countries as well, including America. This is a very big step.”
He added that the government would develop the areas to facilitate trade and tourism.
The premier thanked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for sponsoring the construction of the road in Bajaur.