SIGNIFICANCE OF KARAK DISTRICT AND SURROUNDING AREAS FOR PAKISTAN’S FUTURE ECONOMIC WELL BEING AS WELL AS NATIONAL INTEGRITYOctober 3rd, 2011 by Masood Sharif Khattak Leave a reply »
While Article 161 of the Constitution of Pakistan makes it incumbent upon the Federal Government to be paying to the Provincial Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a huge amount as excise duty collected at the well head and royalty it is also now extremely necessary to pay attention to some other vital factors which will go a long way in the furtherance of Pakistan’s national interests. Those factors include a Federal and Provincial governmental effort towards ensuring that the areas that are rich in natural resources begin to develop at a fast pace and in that development are included projects like the development of educational infrastructure all the way to the University level, development of industrial areas with an initial concession of tax holidays of different kinds, development of the communication infrastructure, the medical infrastructure and much more. I have no hesitation in saying that if these factors had been implemented in the energy producing and other areas of Balochistan when energy (gas) was first discovered in Sui (Balochistan) it would have given an incentive to the people of other areas of energy rich Balochistan to invite the oil and gas development sector to come and explore in their areas. There would have been no need of any State security for such exploratory efforts as the interest of the locals themselves would have ensured their safety etc. We did just the opposite. The whole of Pakistan was consuming the natural gas from Sui where it was discovered in 1952. The gas from Sui was transmitted for domestic and industrial consumption to all over Pakistan since 1955 but it was as late as the 1980s that this gas began to be supplied in Quetta i.e. the Capital of Balochistan. What I am trying to stress upon people who matter in decision making is that they should think of developing the new energy producing areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which essentially, thus far, revolve around District Karak and its fringes bordering the districts of Kohat and Mianwali. This must be done before the locals start feeling that they are being robbed and nothing is being given to them in return. That is when serious trouble is likely to be encountered. I am also hopeful that the decision makers of today will not like to see Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA deteriorating into a situation such as the one Pakistan encounters in Balochistan due to policy failures of the past.
The royalty presently being paid to District Karak and Kohat is peanuts as compared to what must actually be paid. According to Article 161 of The Constitution of Pakistan, read as a whole, the Federal excise duty levied on oil and natural gas production at the well head and the Royalty collected by the Federal Government will not form a part of the Federal Consolidated Fund but will be paid to the Province in which the well head is located. Unfortunately, only a very meager amount trickles down from the Province to the actual energy producing areas or Districts (District Karak and Kohat in this case). This is exactly what happened in Balochistan too where while some of the proceeds were consumed by those in power at the Provincial level the rest were appropriated to Sardars and other political bigwigs and the people of the Balochistan Province as a whole remained deprived of their share of developmental activities. This must not repeated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is wrong to have most of the royalty/excise duty placed at the disposal of those in power at Peshawar and allow some crumbs (or leftovers) pushed down to the local elected representatives as if they were the modern day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa equivalent of the tribal sardars of Balochistan of the 1950s and onwards.
The Federal and Provincial Governments must stand warned in unambiguous terms that if they leave the people of the new energy producing sectors of the country located in Karak and some other areas of the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stranded and deprived they would be sowing the seeds of very serious trouble in the near future. Now is the time to pay attention to the situation.
In January, 2011, I had sent a letter to the President of Pakistan along with a comprehensive developmental program of mega projects for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. That letter and the consolidated suggested developmental plan are available here on this site, for those who may not have seen it earlier. The link is http://www.sharifpost.com/2011/01/28/letter-to-mr-asif-ali-zardari-president-of-pakistan-alongwith-an-annexure-outlining-basic-uplift-projects-for-khyber-pakhtunkhwa-and-fata/”>
Let me spell it out in nutshell what I am attempting to put across. The proceeds that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government receives from the Federal Government under Article 161 must be paid back to the Districts in the same spirit i.e. that the excise duty and royalty collected by the Federal Government and disbursed to the Provincial government must, in turn, be disbursed by the Provincial government to the Districts where the well head are situated against which the Federal Government collected that royalty and excise duty. This is what should be done in principle and there is no rocket science required to calculate this disbursement.
However, I am sure that I will be speaking for all the people of Karak and Kohat Districts when I say that we do not wish to see Kohat and Karak prosper and develop as islands of development in the southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while the people in the Districts of Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Hangu and our brethren in the FATA Agencies of South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Kurram and Orakzai remain deprived of funds so essential to bring about development. The magnanimous Khattaks, my tribe, from Karak will in one voice say that though the bulk of collection of royalties and excise duties are collected in the District of Karak the Khattaks of Karak would like to see all of Southern Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and all the FATA Agencies in the south to develop on the proceeds that are received as their share in the form of collection of excise duty and royalty on the existing well heads in the District of Karak as well as for those wells that are likely to come into production in the coming years. Once the deprived Southern Districts have been developed at par with the northern regions of the Province an equitable distribution of the royalties etc. between the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can be resorted to at the Provincial level.
In absolute nutshell let me say that Karak needs to have a University, an industrial area and a huge cement plant to consume its vast cement industry raw material reserves. These are just the bare minimum things that shall begin to give a feeling of being rewarded for the natural resources found on its lands. It must happen faster than one can imagine so that the sense of deprivation found in Balochistan does not even start setting into the minds of the locals of the energy producing areas of Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
There is also now an urgent need to immediately announce and start work on a motorway from Islamabad to Kohat/Karrapa and onwards. These are things that will save Pakistan a lot of worries in the years to come. The time to wake up is now. Is anyone listening?