ISLAMABAD -  Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday directed the minister for law and justice to fast track legislative and administrative measures for mainstreaming of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The premier said that it was necessary so that the residents of the tribal areas could have access to fundamental rights at par with the people of the rest of the country.

He said this, while chairing a high-level meeting of the National Committee on the Implementation of the Fata Reforms.

The committee noted with satisfaction the positive response in the parliament and the tribal areas over the Fata reforms package, which was approved by the cabinet on March 2nd.

The committee took many decisions to expedite the process of its implementation.  The committee approved the fast-track recruitment of police and re-deployment of some of the Frontier Constabulary, after training, to perform police functions.

It was also decided to put in place an appropriate administrative mechanism and to create a position of chief operating officer during the transition period.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa briefed the committee on the successes achieved in establishing the writ of the state throughout the Fata and on the steps taken to strengthen security, border infrastructure and the development efforts during the last few years.

The prime minister in his remarks reiterated that the basic purpose of these reforms was to improve the living standard of the residents of the Fata who had suffered enormously due to a long war, insurgency and widespread displacement in the past three decades.

Other members of the committee who attended the meeting included Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Parvez Khattak, Minister for SAFRON Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz and senior civil and military officials. Later in the evening, the prime minister was given briefing about the performance of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

BISP Chairperson Marvi Memon apprised the prime minister that the budget allocation for the programme, which was Rs70 billion in 2013 had increased to Rs121 billion in 2017 and the quarterly stipend had been increased from Rs3,000 per quarter in 2013 to Rs4,834 per quarter in 2016. In her presentation, she highlighted that the numbers of beneficiaries had increased from 3.78 million in 2013, to 5.46 million in 2017.

In 2012-2013, disbursement worth Rs43.30 billion were made whereas in 2016-2017, Rs102.8 billion have been disbursed, which depicted a significant increase in government spending on the welfare of the poor.

The BISP chairperson highlighted that the BISP impact evaluation report depicted positive impact on poverty reduction and women empowerment.

The BISP had resulted in poverty reduction by seven per cent and enrolment of children of the BISP beneficiaries in primary schools increased by 10 per cent.

She reiterated that the BISP was working to mobilise beneficiaries to avail social welfare services and create linkages with other government and non-government initiatives.

More than 354,847 BISP households have been enrolled in PM National Health Programme.  More than 181,088 BISP households got interest-free loans from Akhuwat, PMIFYL, PPAF and other provincial schemes.  She said that the BISP was also considering various graduation models so that its beneficiaries might become self-sufficient and escape poverty.

The prime minister appreciated the progress made by the BISP during the last four years, and said that it reflected the commitment of the government towards poverty alleviation in the country as well as to enable the poor earn their livelihoods.  Abbasi emphasised that there was a need to enhance transparency and improve operational efficiency of the programme.