Decade gone by: FATA still waiting for promised educational institutions

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Former governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Iftikhar Hussain Shah might well be remembered as the man who took the initiative for architecting a new Fata. Shah inaugurated various educational institutions across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and completed their basic plans; however, no practical work has been done since.

FATA Additional Director Education, Hasham Khan Afridi tells The Express Tribune that the projects, inaugurated in 2004, are still under consideration.

“FATA Medical College is under construction in Bajaur Agency; the land for FATA University in Frontier Region Peshawar has been purchased in Akhorwal; an engineering university has been announced for Bajaur; while Rs19 million has been paid to the political administration for the purchase of land for Cadet College in Mohmand Agency,” says Afridi, giving a list of seemingly abandoned endeavours.

The director claims the main hurdles to the completion of these projects are resistance from the local population and the prevailing law and order situation. He shares in Mohmand, the landowners are now demanding more money than what was promised at the time. Afridi adds there are certain elements in the FATA Secretariat that are responsible for the delay.

Upper Mohmand Agency Assistant Political Agent (APA) Jamshed Khan confirms they had received money for the purchase of land for Cadet College, out of which about three million had been paid to the owner. “The project requires 800 kanals of land for construction,” Jamshed says, “The problem is that there are 114 owners of that land.”

The rate was initially set at Rs25,000 per kanal, but was not paid at the time because all the owners could not be identified, says the APA. After a decade has passed, and the legitimate owners have been found, they are now not willing to accept the old rate; some claim that prices have gone up ten-fold.

Jamshed shares the political agent of the agency has put forward an application to the secretariat for an adjusted price to be decided, expressing hope that this would solve the issue and that work would soon commence.

“I had decided on a rate with the government at the time when the project was proposed, but they did not pay on time,” says a landowner at the proposed site in Ghazi Baig of Mohmand, Sherzada Khan. “Now the rate has gone up in 10 years, and they cannot expect to buy the property at the same price.”

Sherzada says it is because of this that a majority of landowners have refused to hand over their lands to the government. He states his demand is now to be paid Rs250,000 per kanal and says he has appealed to the political agent Mohmand Agency, who is also the project director.

“If our demands are not fulfilled, we will not allow the government to construct the college,” Sherzada adds.

On the other hand, social activists in the region are stressing on the importance of the completing the project quickly. “The government should not have announced the construction of Cadet College in Mohmand if they did not have the budget to see it through,” says a local activist, Sajid Khan.

Senator Hilal Rehman lays the blame on FATA Secretariat, claiming they are responsible for the delay of the project as they did not provide funds on time and continue to create hurdles.

Source: The Express Tribune