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KP Governor’s House eating up tribal districts’ uplift funds

KP Governor’s House eating up tribal districts’ uplift funds

PESHAWAR: The Governor’s House, which after the merger of tribal belt with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa practically lost the administrative power over Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata), continues eating up a big chunk of funds meant for development in the merged tribal districts.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has allocated millions of funds from the tribal districts’ annual development programme 2019-20 for the preservation and rehabilitation of the palatial Governor’s House and maintenance of birds and animals kept there.

In addition, funds have been earmarked for the rehabilitation and preservation of the Governor’s Cottages in Razmak and Miramshah area of North Waziristan tribal district.

The budget documents for merged districts show that Rs13.55 million has been allocated for rehabilitation and preservation of lower ground floor of residential portion of the Governor’s House, a reminiscent of the colonial era.

Millions allocated in ex-Fata’s ADP for building and animals kept there

Extensive repair and maintenance was carried out in the Governor’s House in 2015-16 at a cost of over Rs80 million to preserve the century-old structure.

The KP’s Governor, who served as agent to the president for the defunct Fata and its chief executive before the landmark 25th Constitutional Amendment, still retains a network of cottages in every tribal district that serve as camp offices.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced in 2013 that the Governor’s Houses would be used for productive activities if his party came to power, but he ignored the promise thereafter.

The budget documents show that Rs19.369 million has been earmarked for rehabilitation of Governor’s Cottage at Miramshah, North Waziristan. Similarly an amount of Rs19.85 million has been earmarked in the merged districts’ ADP for rehabilitation of Governor’s Cottage Razmak in North Waziristan along with guestrooms and rehabilitation of additional deputy commissioner and tehsildar Razmak office and residences.

Significantly, the own budget of the Governor’s House for the year 2019-20 is Rs316.08 million that includes Rs2.2 million for entertainment and gifts. Budget of the Governor’s House was Rs643.96 million in 2018-19 that also included Rs331.17 million for the defunct Ehtesab Commission.

Despite having its own budget, the provincial government earmarked funds meant for development schemes in militancy-stricken tribal districts for the preservation of Governor’s House in Peshawar.

When approached, adviser to the chief minister for merged districts Ajmal Wazir expressed ignorance about the allocation of funds in the merged districts’ ADP for the Governor’s House and its attached cottages.

Allocation of funds in the ADP for tribal region for the Governor’s House and other projects outside former Fata was a routine matter. Former governor Iftikhar Hussain Shah had diverted funds from the ADP for former Fata to construct a new hall in the Governor’s House, Peshawar.

His successor, Owais Ahmad Ghani, had diverted over Rs300 million from social sector in tribal area to law enforcement agencies. He also allocated funds meant for development schemes in tribal belt for construction of monument in Peshawar.

As the governor was the chief executive of the erstwhile Fata, Rs500 million was allocated as his discretionary funds in every ADP. Major portion of the ADP was allocated for schemes on the directives of the governor.

According to the budget estimates, the maintenance of pheasantry inside the Governor’s House is being funded from the ADP for merged districts. Different verities of birds have been caged in the Governor’s House to entertain guests.

The official documents show that maintenance of three pheasantries in tribal districts including Bajaur, Mohmand and Kurram and one in the Governor’s House districts has been included in the merged districts’ ADP. The total cost of the maintenance of four pheasantries is Rs60 million of which Rs10 million has been allocated in the ADP for current financial year.

Interestingly, officials of the wildlife department expressed ignorance about the existence of pheasantries in the Governor’s House and inside tribal districts and allocation of funds in the ADP.

The officials said the wildlife department’s functions had yet to be extended to merged districts.

“I don’t have any answer for the maintenance of pheasantry in the Governor’s House and allocation of funds. As far as pheasantries in tribal districts are concerned the department does not own assets or facilities,” said one official.

He said the conservator (forest) for defunct Fata might have caged birds there but those facilities did not serve the purpose of conservation of fauna.

“Officials of the forest department have kept different birds in cages in tribal districts for gifting them to guests of political agents and other officials, but these facilities have nothing to do with breeding and conservation,” he said.

Sources said that officials of the forest department had kept pairs of flamingo, peacocks and other birds in Khar, Bajaur district.

Similarly, small pheasantry has been established near Parachinar, Kurram district, where water birds and other species have been kept.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2019

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