PESHAWAR - Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated that tribal culture, traditions and way of living will remain preserved even after merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Addressing a 40-member Jirga delegation from Khyber district on Saturday at Governor House in Peshawar, he said the tribal people have given huge sacrifices for the peace in motherland and all their issues will be resolved. The prime minister also appreciated the role of tribal elders and local leaders of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and said they preserved peace in their respective areas.

Khan said before war on terror the system of tribal areas was working smoothly and people would get justice. The old tribal system was peace-loving as even before 9/11, the tribal areas had minimal crime rate and people were also getting easy justice through an indigenous governance system, he said.

He told the gathering that the new system would almost be compatible with the old one and the government would try to ensure its minimum impact on the local tribal traditions and culture. The new system will work in parallel with the old system, he added.

The prime minister said the state had learned lesson from the experience of Dir and Swat where the crime rate had swollen dramatically after the merger of two areas. This had happened because the people of those areas had no understanding of the laws enforced in settled areas.

He said the government would enforce alternate dispute resolution mechanism in the merged areas too that had also been experimented in KP during last five years. Even, he said, the local government system is also close to the older system that worked in tribal areas for a long time wherein every area governs its own matters.

Imran Khan said the people will be empowered at the grass root level. Under the system, village councils would be formed and the villages would get direct funding and be empowered to make their own decisions regarding development. Similar system would also be introduced in Punjab province, he added.

He said with the increased number of seats, the people of tribal areas will also get more representation in both federal and provincial governments.

The prime minister said though the merger of tribal areas was not an easy task, however, the government would ensure the resolution of their problems with the consultation of tribal elders through an exclusive committee.

He recalled that in the past there was no one to raise voice for the tribal people when they had been facing terrorism, displacement during the military operation and drone attacks. However, after the merger with KP, no such thing would happen anymore, he assured.

KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and Governor Shah Farman were also present on this occasion. The prime minister held separate meetings with KP lawmakers as well as some other leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Imran Khan also attended a fundraising event for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research at a hotel. Addressing the fundraiser, the premier said that a few doctors are running a false campaign against reforms in the health sector and wrongly claiming that the government was about to privatise state hospitals.

“We won’t be privatising hospitals,” he categorically said and vowed, “I won’t take into account anyone’s blackmailing tactics in improving government hospitals.”

Khan said that treatment is not being provided as per international standards in the government hospitals. “I ask the doctors who are protesting against the reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are they satisfied with the treatment being provided?”

“We want to bring state hospitals to the level of Shaukat Khanum Hospital. We won’t step back in improving the standards of the hospital,” he said and expressed the hope that there would soon be a public hospital in KP meeting the to the international standards.

OPDs at hospitals across KP remained closed due to protests by doctor’s association after a skirmish between them and the security staff of provincial health minister.