Rs102bn released for mega development in erstwhile FATA, says Afridi

Shehryar Khan Afridi

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions Shehryar Afridi on Wednesday said that the federal government had released an unprecedented Rs102 billion for the development of tribal regions of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and massive development process is going to take place in tribal regions.

Addressing a press conference here flanked by the federal secretary, chief commissioner Afghan commissioner and other officials, the minister said that Pakistan will commemorate the year 2019 as 40 years of hospitality for Afghan refugees. He said that in this regard, a refugee convention would be held in June to tell the world the success story of generosity and sacrifices made by Pakistani people for refugees.

The minister said that Pakistan has been a host to millions of Afghan refugees for the last four decade and this has been an unprecedented example of generosity and brotherhood that has been shown by Pakistan despite its financial restraints and meagre resources.

During the 40 years of hospitality and sacrifices for refugees, there was not a single incident of conflict between refugees and Pakistani hosts despite differences in culture and lifestyle of people of two countries, he added.

He said that there are approximately three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan including more than 1.4 million registered population (POR card holder), 0.85 million approximately newly documented Afghan citizen card holders and 0.5 million are undocumented refugees.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan announced and thereafter allowed the opening of bank accounts at Afghan refugees in Pakistani banks as a goodwill gesture.

The minister said that maximum members of the current Afghan cabinet have lived and studied in Pakistan.

Afridi said that efforts are afoot to empower the tribal people. He said that ninety-five billion rupees have been released for the development of tribal districts. He said that more funds will be released for the prosperity of tribal people.

He said that it is the government’s responsibility to respect every Pakistani and they offer the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) to resolve issues through dialogue.

He asserted that it is the time for Pakistan to illuminate after darkness. “Whoever will try to take the law in his own hands will be dealt with strictly,” he added.

Afridi said that slogans were never chanted against Pakistan in the history of Pashtuns. He further said that if there is any sort of issue with them then it can be peacefully resolved through dialogue. “Pakistan is in safe hands now and it has a very bright future,” he added.

The minister expressed that the government would not have allowed Mohsin Dawar to submit his resolution about FATA’s merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) if it had any ill intent against the PTM. Asked if the government would be ready to hold talks to PTM, the minister stated that it is the responsibility of the government to respect every Pakistani.

“When I was the interior minister, I made Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir sit together for talks,” he asserted.