The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s decision to terminate employees engaged in development projects in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) should be reconsidered. The reason the officials cite for implementing such a harsh decision is the global pandemic, which takes up all the funds. This argument holds no water however, as the government is also hiring new staff. Firing experienced staff and recruiting a new lot and that too at such a critical moment makes no sense.

Ironically, the incumbent government made lofty claims regarding employment generation. The people of the merged districts in particular, have been promised a lot, including greater employment opportunities. An action like this however, only suggests that the newly merged districts will have a harder time catching up to the rest of the country in terms of development.

Given that the employees were on a contract basis, the government does not fear any legal proceedings against its decision. However, the equity principle would suggest regularising them, as many had been associated with different projects for the last sixteen years.

The government should have thought about how its decision would impact thousands of families. And the situation of these employees is worse than the ordinary workers as there are no labour courts in these districts where they can seek some remedy. The fact that the provincial government was able to terminate more than 3000 employees with a single stroke speaks volumes about the abusive nature of contractual employment. At the very least, the provincial government should rehire some if not all of the fired employees, on vacant posts for which it is making an announcement soon.