ISLAMABAD - The Senate standing committee on states and frontier regions on Wednesday expressed concern over the alleged irregularities in issuance of licenses and NOCs for mining purposes in the FATA, especially in Mohmand Agency.

The committee observed that massive violations were being reported in mineral concession rules 2005 and there is a need to take appropriate action. It was observed that the inquiry report by Ministry of SAFRON instituted on the recommendations of the standing committee against irregularities observed in the issuance of mining license by FDA to M/S Bajaur Ancient variety for Napharite and serpentine was lopsided and flawed as it failed to refer to rules while examining the case.

Especially, rule 100 of the mineral concession which clearly states that a mining license cannot be issued for more than one group of minerals. The meeting of the committee was held at the Parliament House, Islamabad under the chairmanship of Senator Hilalur Rehman.

The main agenda was to review the alarmingly slow pace of the development activities in FATA, updated status of FATA University, complaints of public on non-provision of textbooks to FATA students and examination of irregularities in the award of mining leases by FATA development authority. The meeting was attended by Minister State for SAFRON Ghalib Khan Wazir, senators and officials from FATA.

At the outset, the senator inquired regarding approval of two package based schemes worth Rs800 million and that there were complaints of irregularities in the approval of these schemes. He asked the FATA additional chief secretary and other representatives as to how the sites were selected, who gave the feasibilities, as the schemes appeared to be individual based initiatives.

He also indicated that the schemes did not appear to be ‘high impact’ initiatives, despite the fact that their cost stood at almost Rs1 billion. The ACS replied that the schemes were identified as governor directives. He also remarked that the names were actually names of the area and not the individuals. The chairman questioned will the ACS FATA guarantee that none of the individuals whose names are mentioned in the nomenclatures of the schemes FATA ADP 957 and 958, get the contracts. The ACS guaranteed that the tender processes will be carried out on merit.

The planning and development secretary briefed the forum that out of a total 444 new schemes, 217 have so far been approved at various development forums in FATA and the balance schemes stand at 227. The chairman said that as per the data submitted, why 77 schemes pending at P&D and FATA directorates for approval. The forum was informed that the PC-1s of the rest of 150 schemes were not prepared because of site selection issues.

The senators indicated that it seems that there was no coordination or control between FATA secretariat and the political agents. Hence, FATA’s development was being compromised. The standing committee was briefed that the total FATA ADP for the current year 2018 was Rs26.5 billion and total reconciled expenditure stood at Rs3.5 billion.

It was noted that as it took six months for FATA secretariat to utilise a mere billion, so in the next six months the pace of the utilisation stays the same there is a chance that a total of Rs19.5 billion will lapse from the development budget.

The committee also pondered over the public petition with regard to non-availability of textbooks in Mohmand Agency. The petitioner informed that nearly 40,000 children were without textbooks and were facing problems in their studies.

The committee directed the concerned quarters to submit a detailed report in this regard and ensure the provision of sufficient books to the students. The committee was also given a detailed briefing on working and performance of FATA University.

It was informed that the university was established in 2013 and the first vice-chancellor was appointed in 2016. The committee expressed its displeasure over the fact that despite assurance by the HEC chairman, no tangible steps have been taken for the establishment of cub-campuses in other agencies of FATA. The committee, however, assured its cooperation to the management of the university to make it a more vibrant institution of higher learning for students of FATA.

The meeting was attended by Senators Taj Muhammad Afridi, Haji Muhammad Khan Afridi, Hidayat Ullah, Malik Najam-ul-Hassan, Ahmad Hassan, Khanzada Khan, Liaqat Khan Tarakai, Miss Sitara Ayaz and senior officers of the ministry.