ISLAMABAD - A parliamentary committee on tribal affairs was informed yesterday that non-local industrialists have invaded mineral resources in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) without spending a penny on the uplift of the area people.

The committee meeting held at the Parliament House witnessed some startling revelations about the state of education and health in FATA with Senator Hilal Rehman expressing concern over the illegal excavation of mineral resources by non-locals.

Senator Hilal Rehman who is also Chairman Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) said that the industrialists belonging to Punjab and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have invaded FATA and exploiting its mineral resources without any legal permission.

He explained that under the law and tribal customs, a contractor is first granted Prospecting Licence (PL) for exploring mineral deposits in any tribal agency and then after the lapse of two years he is given Mineral Licence (ML).

“A lessee who possesses PL is allowed to excavate few kilograms of minerals for laboratory check. Would you imagine that contractors are currently transporting huge quantity of minerals in trucks despite that they are not allowed to take more than five kilograms of marbles,” the chairman of the committee said.

He said that rich industrialists are exploiting the innocence of local people by occupying hundreds of acres land (mineral mountains) than the area the locals have allowed them to excavate.

“Under the law, anybody transporting/excavating minerals in FATA has to pay 25 per cent as tax to FATA authorities and allocate 70 per cent for the development of the area where minerals are exploited. But a single penny is not spent on development of the area,” the Senator stated.

The chairman who was supported by other committee members warned secretary SAFRON to take notice of the issue and direct FATA Development Authority (FDA) to grant licences to locals and follow the established Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in award of contracts.

Referring to the contractors engaged in excavation of minerals in FATA which he termed as ‘invaders’, Senator Hilal said a single contractor in Mohmand Agency was currently digging a mountain of marbles spread on 600 acres of land. “He has no legal documents to prove his contract,” he said.

Senator Saleh Shah, another member of the Committee disclosed that ‘unknown’ people in Waziristan have been engaged to explore copper deposits in the area. He regretted that while the tribal agency is a no-go area for the local displaced people, the area was a heaven for those making huge profits from the mineral resources of the tribal agency.

The committee directed ministry of SAFRON to probe the bogus No Objection Certificates (NOCs) granted to those exploiting mineral deposits in FATA and cancel the documents right away.

About the state of education in FATA, Additional Secretary FATA Secretariat said there was one school available for 812 students in the seven tribal agencies stating that more than 2190 posts of teachers had been lying vacant for 10 years.

In the same breadth, he informed that only 450 teachers are available for 18,000 students, adding that tutors teaching science subjects like biology and chemistry were not available in the entire FATA schools.

It was informed that 400 schools in FATA have only buildings where teachers, students and staff is not available and the elders use the facilities as drawing rooms. “We need to immediately close these schools and punish the teachers who have been getting monthly salaries only,” Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi told the meeting as the Additional Secretary informed.

The committee issued directions to Finance Division for immediately releasing of funds so that teachers in FATA could be appointed on merit so that enough teachers are available to teach the students.

About the state of health facilities, the Committee was informed that there was not a single hospital in entire FATA where treatment of serious patients could be ensured, adding that patients are either brought to hospitals in Peshawar or Islamabad for treatment.

However, Secretary SAFRON Waqarul Hassan informed the members that 1300 kanals of land had been acquired in Dara Adam Khel for establishing FATA University for which a vice chancellor has been appointed.