PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday abolished the office of political agents and the collection of Agency Welfare Fund that had become the root cause of exploitation and corruption in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Officials said that nomenclature of seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions in Fata were also being changed to tribal districts within the next few days. For this purpose, they said, a summary had recently been sent to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor.
The 116-year-old posts of political agents in the seven tribal agencies were re-designated as deputy commissioners, additional political agent as additional deputy commissioner and assistant political agent/assistant political officer as assistant commissioner through a notification.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa govt issues order to immediately stop Agency Welfare Fund collection
The designations were changed by the provincial home and tribal affairs department in the aftermath of the Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act, 2018 adopted by parliament and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
The office of political agent was for the first time introduced in erstwhile Malakand Agency of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 1897. The office of political agent was later extended beyond the boundaries of the then North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Historian Dr Sultan-i-Rome said the British government had re-designated the post of political officer in Malakand Agency of the NWFP as Political Agent in 1897. He said the post of political agent was introduced in tribal agencies in the early 19th century.
Khyber Agency was the first tribal region where the post of political agent was introduced in 1902 with Major G. Ross Kepper as the first political agent. Kurram Agency was the second tribal area where political agent was appointed.
Levies collection stopped
In a separate order, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Secretary Mohammad Azam Khan directed the deputy
commissioners concerned to stop collection of all types of “Rahdaarees”, import, export tax and levies collected by the political administration forthwith.
A compliance report shall be sent to Fata’s additional chief secretary within 48 hours of the receipt of the instructions, said an official order issued from the chief secretary’s office on Friday.
Mr Khan said the tax/fee had been conceived by the British government for a totally different purpose. But for the past two to three decades, it had become the root cause of corruption in the area, he added. “By becoming controversial, it had inadvertently robbed the office of the political agent of moral authority and this was one of the causes for the decline of effective administration in the area,” he explained.
The notification directed the additional chief secretary of Fata to immediately take up a case with the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions pursuant to the said decision of the prime minister to provide the requisite funds in lieu of Agency Development Fund (ADF) in the regular budget for the remaining period of current financial year and subsequently for the new financial year 2018-19.
According to the order, the local administration shall ensure that no person or agency collected any type of tax, levy or fee anywhere in its respective jurisdiction other than what a national law allowed. Similarly, all expenditures from the respective ADF shall be stopped forthwith. A bank statement of the mentioned account shall be sent to the additional chief secretary of Fata within 48 hours of this notification and any necessary expenditure shall only be allowed with the prior approval of ACS Fata who is also principal accounting officer.
The notification reads that all checkpoints established for the purpose of collection of various taxes should immediately be removed. This, however, does not apply to the posts set up for the purpose of security, watch and ward.
The additional chief secretary of Fata shall publicise these instructions widely through print and electronic media mentioning a dedicated helpline number to receive any complaints regarding violation of these instructions.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2018