Are there any working streetlights? Is the garbage being picked up? How many clean, working public toilets are there? Is a fire brigade vehicle maintained? These are just a few of the questions confronting the 25 Tehsil Municipal Administrations (TMAs) in the newly merged areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where improvements to municipal services are urgently needed.
Basic municipal services have largely been absent throughout the history of the former FATA, where 73 percent of people live in multidimensional poverty. Improving them – through the provision of quality water and sanitation facilities, waste disposal, markets, and green spaces – would contribute greatly to a range of development outcomes, including health, economic opportunities, and environmental protection.
Charged with making essential improvements to services, these young TMAs (formed in December 2019, under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government (Amendment) Act) face massive capacity constraints themselves. While most organizations face some capacity challenges, few have to contend with issues as fundamental as whether the office has electricity or an internet connection, or even a fraction of its intended staff. Furthermore, the absence of local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - the previous term ended August 28, 2019, with elections due to have been held within 120 days thereafter - has meant that there are no elected local councils to approve TMAs’ spending of the funds allocated to them (approximately PKR 3.6 billion was allocated to Tehsil Local Governments in the Merged Areas in FY2020-21).