Published October 2003 for Khyber Mail
The writer is the present Senior Provincial Finance Minister in NWFP.
by Sirajul Haq
Allah Almighty has blessed the NWFP with abundant natural resources. Our snow-covered mountains, gushing streams, rivers, precious mineral wealth, fertile lands and hardworking manpower all constitute a big resource potential in this geo-politically important region. But, unfortunately, no comprehensive planning was done in the past to utilise these resources in an efficient manner, with least concern shown towards ameliorating the lot of the poor masses and removing the immense backwardness prevalent here in this province. All past governments worked on ad hoc basis to achieve political dividends and to further self-interest, while those working with sincerity were obstructed and discouraged. This is the very reason that this province is languishing under ever-increasing poverty and backwardness.
It does not mean other provinces enjoy riches and development. It is a glaring fact that millions of poor have to sleep hungry every second night in parts of the Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. As a JI activist, I visited every nook and corner of the country and witnessed people longing for even basic facilities like potable water and medical care. However, the fresh official surveys have shown that the NWFP is far ahead of other provinces in poverty and unemployment. The MMA government was faced with enormous challenges including a deteriorating economy when it came into power in the NWFP.
It is astonishing that despite all its resources having duly exploited by the Centre, every provincial government has to seek funds from the federal government every year even for its routine expenditures. Presently, we have to rely on the Centre for our 90 per cent revenues. Hydle power generation and tobacco crop are our two main cash earning resources. But since the federal government controls both these resources, we have to wait for the payment of our share of profit in this respect. Though our Constitution has very clearly defined the rights of the provinces and responsibilities of the Centre, the latter is continuously - and intentionally - ignoring the implementation on its own decisions.
A clear example is that of hydle net profit. The Constitution has bestowed right of hydle net profit to the province where hydle power is generated but despite this vivid explanation, the NWFP could not receive its due share of hydle net profit since the promulgation of this law in statute. The AGN Qazi Committee has also conceded this right of the NWFP constituted under the NFC recommendations in 1990. This decision of the AGN Qazi Committee was even guaranteed by the president but unfortunately WAPDA is continuously violating this decision and the well-accepted Qazi formula is intentionally kept in cold storage. WAPDA is even intransigently delaying payment of outstanding hydle net profit dues of the NWFP which have now reached up to the tune of Rs. 309 billion. Interestingly but regrettably WAPDA has adopted its own derived modus ope***** since 1993 wherein NWFP is paid Rs. 6 billion annually which is sheer violation of the set provisions and rules under the Qazi formula as well as the Constitution. In such challenging circumstances when many national and international bodies have officially declared the NWFP leading every other province in terms of poverty and backwardness, where there is reign of joblessness and frustration among the youth despite the province’s geo-strategic importance in the entire region, the Centre is duty bound not to become hurdle in providing due rights to this poverty-stricken province, especially in respect of hydle net profit and tobacco crop earnings being its only and lion share of income. This just and generous step on the part of the federal government would certainly contribute in strengthening the economy of the province up to some extent; its people’s sense of deprivation will be removed considerably and the province will thus be able to march ahead on the road to progress and prosperity side by side with other developed parts of the country. As far as the MMA government is concerned, we have voiced our demand for our genuine rights at every forum. Responsible people right from the president and the prime minister to the federal finance and power ministers were approached. The NWFP Assembly has diverted attention of the Centre towards this important and crucial issue through passing a joint resolution unanimously as well as all MPAs from the treasury and opposition benches staged a joint walkout from the assembly to record their immense feelings. Immediately after presenting the provincial budget we summoned a meeting of all provincial finance ministers in Peshawar to discuss the issues. As a result of deliberations, a working group has been constituted to contact all provincial finance ministers and authorities and muster their support for using their offices to let the NWFP get its due rights. I myself spared no efforts to raise the matter at every forum to enable our province to get its just and constitutional rights. I wrote articles, columns in the press and compelled other columnists and journalists to play their role for such a great cause. But unfortunately the Centre has not budged. Yet owing to its ground-less intransigence, August 31, 2003, became a memorable day in the Frontier’s history as the MNAs and Senators belonging to the NWFP, as well as the parliamentary party leaders of the NWFP Assembly, irrespective of their political affiliations, assembled on a single platform in Peshawar to discuss the hydle net profit issue and other problems faced by this province on the invitation of the MMA government. It is indeed a matter of great honour and satisfaction that my invitation was not only whole-heartedly accepted by the majority of the parliament members but also the MPs and central and provincial leaders of various political parties attended this grand meeting, irrespective of their political differences with the provincial government. I am especially thankful to Qazi Hussein Ahmad, Senator Asfandyar Wali Khan, central president ANP, Senator Farhatullah Babar (PPP-Parliamentarians), Abdul Akbar Khan (PPP-P), Bashir Ahmad Bilour (ANP), Anwar Kamal Khan Marwat (PML-N) and Mian Nisar Gul (Tehrik-e-Insaf). This has of course encouraged the provincial government to go ahead in its effort to get its due rights. A joint declaration was also adopted in the meeting in this regard. The Centre has therefore no other option but to give us our due rights; it must immediately release hydel arrears of Rs. 209 billion to enable the NWFP to stand on its own feet. Immediate commencement of the NFC Award meeting is also the need of the hour to discuss our due rights and other financial problems. The Centre should discharge its constitutional obligations in letter and spirit to give people of all provinces the feeling that their rights are not jeopardised.