ISLAMABAD: Heads of two autonomous regions in the country on Friday lodged a protest over ‘injustice’ being meted out to them by the four federating units, saying “for the sake of Pakistan they submerged their villages to build dams while the federating units are not ready to construct the Kalabagh dam”.
In a meeting of the National Economic Council, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider spoke about the problems that his special region was facing due to lack of financial resources and cold shoulder given by the federating units.
“Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rahman also endorses Raja Farooq’s views,” said sources privy to the NEC deliberations.
The two heads also complained about having no share in the National Finance Commission, unlike the four federating units.
The NEC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had been convened to approve the macroeconomic framework and national development budget for FY2017-18.
The sources said the AJK prime minister complained to the prime minister that areas in special need had been left behind in development “as if the people of these regions were children of lesser god”.
Haider reportedly said that Sindh had rejected the demand of allocation of additional water to AJK once.
Continuing in the same breath, the AJK prime minister said that the region’s many villages were submerged during the construction of the Mangla Dam for the sake of the people of Pakistan but the other provinces were blocking the construction of the Kalabagh Dam.
The issue of the Kalabagh Dam remains controversial because Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa oppose its construction on the apprehensions that their cities will submerge and there will be no water left for cultivation due the building of the reservoir upstream.
The sources said the AJK prime minister singled out the prime minister for supporting development in AJK in addition to the federal government.
The sources said the prime minister directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to hold a meeting with four provincial chief ministers soon after the presentation of the budget to carve out a formula to allocate resources to G-B and AJK from the NFC.
“The prime minister fights the case of Fata, G-B and AJK in the NEC,” said Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal after the NEC meeting.
The Minister said the prime minister had requested the four provinces that a special formula might be devised for giving resources to these special regions.
“Due to legal complexities the status of a province cannot be given to Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK, but at the same time people of these regions have equal rights and are not less than the citizens of four provinces,” said Iqbal.
“Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif supports the proposal to discuss ways to give financial resources to AJK, Fata and G-B, but any decision in this regard will be taken during the meeting between the federal finance minister and provincial chief ministers,” said Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha.
The planning minister said on the directions of PM Sharif, the share of AJK in development budget had been increased to Rs22 billion in the next budget –an addition of Rs10 billion, which is the highest ever allocation.
He said the share of G-B in the development budget had also been increased — from Rs9 billion during the outgoing fiscal year to Rs15 billion.
Similarly, allocation for Fata development had also been jacked up to Rs24.5 billion as against Rs22 billion during the outgoing fiscal year.
The sources said during the forthcoming meeting, the federal finance ministry would push its earlier agenda of giving 4% of the gross divisible pool for development of AJK, Fata and G-B.
During deliberations over the 8th NFC award, the centre had proposed that the size of the gross federal divisible pool be cut by 7% to meet ‘additional expenses’ on security and federally-administered regions and special areas.
The centre had proposed that 3% of the gross federal divisible pool should be given to meet additional expenditures on security and another 4% for development of G-B, AJK and Fata.
Since these areas do not enjoy the status of federating units, they do not get share from the NFC. Their financial needs are met by the federal government from its own share from the NFC.
The NFC negotiations have remained suspended due to disagreements between the centre and the four federating units.
The federal divisible pool comprises various taxes and levies. According to the current NFC award, which is seventh in succession, 57.5% of the net federal divisible pool goes to the provinces, while the remaining is used by the federal government.
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