Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, while reiterating the pledge made by his government, said that it is high time for them to explore and utilize the rich natural resources of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for the benefit of the people.
Addressing the launching ceremony of the very first Mineral Policy of his government, the chief minister had said that the majority of KPK’s population is living in poverty and in a state of deprivation because the previous governments neglected the upliftment of their living standard.
“We are striving to build a society where there is equal treatment for rich and poor and where laws are applied evenhandedly. Political interference and bureaucratic discretion is being minimized and lopsided development is being done away with,” he had said.
“A positive change in the lives of people is envisaged with the fast-paced development,” he had observed.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan also addressed the ceremony, which was attended by ambassadors, investors, mining engineers and members of the business community from around the country.
The chief minister had said that the KP Mineral Policy 2014, a first for any province in Pakistan, is going to ensure that new developments in this industry will adhere to 21st-century rules incorporated in the Mines Safety Act.
“This policy provides a set of guiding principles and a program of action to further develop the mineral industry of the province by creating a business environment that will benefit the people,” he said.
Anisa Zeb Tahirkehli, minister for labour and mineral development, failed to return both phone calls and text messages despite repeated attempts by Truth Tracker to get her version of the story.
However, Arif Yousaf, Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) and special assistant to the chief minister for law, said, ‘The PTI-led government aimed its first mineral policy at developing the sector, which was ignored by the previous governments.”
He said that the provincial government has worked diligently to revive the failing mining sector and it also helped establish cement factories in the province.
“The provincial government is all set to sign 12 to 13 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with different mine related companies to exploit natural resources for the well-being of impoverished people,” he added.
In addition to the above, his government is linking agreements with local and multinational companies to extract precious stones in Kumrat Valley, Swat, and the Katlang region in an efficient manner.
“The provincial government is striving to introduce advanced technology in the mining sector for the extraction of precious stones in a professional way,” he added.
Syed Jaffar Shah, MPA and a senior member of Awami National Party (ANP), said: “PTI has zero percent progress towards the development of the mineral sector.”
He recalled that members of the PTI are involved in corrupt practices in the mineral sector and one of their former mining minister is still facing corruption charges in courts.
“Our marble industry is virtually headed towards catastrophe,” Shah observed.
He questioned,” Had the KP’s mining sector generated any revenue? Why did the PTI borrow Rs. 80 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other financial institutions if that is the case?”
“The PTI is now promising to construct the Peshawar Transit Bus System and the Swat Express Motorway but they are false promises,” he noted.
“They have made a joke out of the voters’ confidence in them so far, and the PTI has just a year left to honour all its promises,” he added.
Sahibzada Sanaullah, another MPA from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said that no new development activities could be seen in the mineral sector.
“I will tell you that unprecedented corruption is underway in the mineral sector. We have vast marbles in Bajaur and Chitral localities but the PTI government has not taken a single step to tap natural resources of the province,” he added.
In addition, he said that KP’s scenic Kumrat valley has world class granite, which needs to be extracted with modern technology but the PTI have their own agenda, which is to mint money from the rich mining sector.
When approached for comment, Riaz Khan, an independent analyst and senior journalist, told Truth Track that nothing could be done to develop the KP mineral sector or natural reservoirs.
“First, the KP government has failed to show the know-how required to extract or carry out the excavation of precious stones, coal, gypsum or other minerals in an efficient, modern manner,” he explained.
“Precious stones such as emerald, topaz, ruby and peridot could be found in abundance in parts of KP such as Swat, Katlang, Hazara, Chitral and Kaghan,” he added.
The province is widely known for having huge reserves of precious stones, which are situated in the Katlang and Swat region. In addition, the Hazara region of the province has known reserves of ruby-another kind of precious stone.
“Modern technology is needed to extract the hidden wealth efficiently, which would help improve the country’s economy and raise the living standard of people,” he suggested.
“Unfortunately, the PTI government does not have the sophisticated technology or the manpower required to excavate minerals from the province,” he observed.
Secondly, the PTI has allotted sites of the deposits to its own people, such as Jahangir Tareen, a lawmaker of the party.
Former mineral minister, Ziaullah, of PTI had been removed from his post after he had developed differences with the chief minister. He recalled that Ziaullah had a hand in massive irregularities of awarding mining contracts to those who supported the PTI.
“Today, people and contractors with close ties to the PTI have mining excavation allotted to their names,” he added. He said that the PTI has a mineral policy, but only on paper.
Following the remarks and views of ruling/opposition lawmakers and independent analysts, Truth Tracker rules that the PTI has broken its promise to improve the KP mining sector to increase revenue and create job opportunities for locals.