Every year in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, millions of rupees are allocated for development of the province’s minorities yet not even half of the amount is actually spent on the proposed schemes.
In the last fiscal year (2019-20), of the more than Rs131 million set aside for 25 development schemes for minorities in 27 settled districts, only around 35% was utilised in the end. Of the over Rs46 million actually used, only six districts —Peshawar, Haripur, Abbottabad, Kohat, Chitral and Nowshera — received the funds. The around Rs30 million allocation for the newly-merged tribal districts saw only one-third being spent.
The funds were allocated for various projects, including construction and repair of minorities’ residential colonies, holding of religious festivals, monetary benefits for education of widows and children and funds to purchase land for a graveyard.
When contacted, Chief Minister’s Special Assistant on Minorities’ Affairs Wazir Zada claimed that their government had made huge allocations for the uplift of the province’s minorities and projects were underway when the coronavirus hit the country, halting all the work. Despite this, he assured that payment of benefits to the deserving is continuing and cited the example of the tribal districts where 80 households were recently provided grants of Rs10,000 each.
Minorities’ representative Augustin Jacob said they have asked the government to convert the development budget into cash handouts for minorities due to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that while this has started to happen, the pace and scale of the activity needs to be ramped up as the minorities, being the most vulnerable section of society, have been badly hit.
With regards to the ongoing (2020-21) fiscal year, Wazir Zada shared that around 28 development projects have been approved for minorities for which Rs150 million have been allocated. A total of Rs100 million have been set aside for easy loans for minorities’ members so they may undertake business activities as a means of sustenance, he added. Moreover, special residential colonies are being constructed for the community in all the districts in the hope that the 80% or so of the community that is residing in rented or government accommodation may have their own houses.