Kashmir: Federal govt accused of denying AJK’s share in fiscal grants

POK - Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas on Sunday came down hard on the PML-N-led federal government and accused it of “malevolently” treating the liberated territory by denying it its due share in fiscal grants.

“Ever since the PML-N government has come to power [in Islamabad], it has been treating us chintzily and selfishly. While the Imran Khan-led PTI government had given additional funds to Muzaffarabad, the incumbent federal set-up has been denying us even our due rights,” he alleged at a press conference.

He recalled that since AJK was not a beneficiary of the National Finance Commission award, it was to be provided 3.64pc share from the federal taxes pool as ‘variable grant’ under a financial arrangement of 2018 between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad.

“In the current year, after a long struggle they pledged us just Rs74 billion as a variable grant despite the fact our actual share according to the expected revenue collection estimates stands at more than Rs225 billion,” he said.

PML-N-led govt treating us selfishly, says PM Ilyas

“If they think that through such treatment they can force us to bow out, they are mistaken,” he said, vowing that he would not compromise the dignity, honour and grace of his people.

At the outset of his presser, PM Ilyas paid tributes to his predecessor and PML-N leader Raja Farooq Haider for “financial and administrative empowerment” of the AJK government through the 13th constitutional amendment.

Brushing off an “organised propaganda drive” that his government intended to cede the powers gained under the 13th amendment, he made it clear that the only objective of the proposed 15th amendment was to lift a prohibition on the strength of cabinet, of which the opposition PPP was also in favour.

“Ironically, there are people who derive benefit from the destabilisation of Azad Kashmir and they are behind such spiteful campaigns,” he said.

Of the proposed ‘tourism authority’ which had drawn him a lot of flak, the AJK premier maintained that it’s aimed at changing the fate of the liberated territory by creating vast employment opportunities in the private sector.

“Those willing to invest huge amounts of money in any territory rightly need not to run from pillar to post in the name of obtaining no-objection certificates from one or the other department,” he said, adding the proposed authority was designed to cater to these issues.

“However, I am not a dictator to establish [the proposed] authority at the strength of a gun. If people do not want this authority, how can I force them for it… But in that case, the public sector will continue to remain the only employer [in AJK] amid its rapidly shrinking capacity.”

Of the AJK Council, the premier lamented that its around 400 employees were drawing salaries and privileges from the AJK exchequer despite the fact they were performing no duties since July 2018.’

“Regrettably, the incumbent adviser to the prime minister on Kashmir affairs [Qamar Zaman Kaira] has also made 35 appointments in the virtually defunct institution,” he alleged.

In response to a question, he took strong exception to the AJK Election Commission for “overstepping its authority” on the issue of local bodies (LB) polls.

“Let me declare it again that my government holds the apex court in the highest esteem and will implement its direction with regard to the LB elections.”__Dawn.com