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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PTI in Government: Looking Back at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 2014

The Published version in Daily Express Tribune 31 Dec 2014

Putting promises of change to the litmus test

The original unedited version

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Looking back at 2014                    
Prof. Ijaz Khan
Department of International Relations
University of Peshawar
Looking back at 2014 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in fact all of Pakistan, has to start with what happened by its end – The Massacre of Children by Terrorists. That day angered and saddened almost everyone, everywhere, but for a few. The tragedy of December 16 2014 shows the failure of this State as whole, with the PTI ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as one part of it. It was a systemic failure and did not just happen and the perpetrators of the tragedy were not only the few who carried it out or their immediate leaders, pointing at the fast growing irrelevancy of State and its writ; The failure of governance and all its parts – administrative, political, economic/developmental and socio-cultural. PTI, was voted in by the electorate of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa largely due to their dissatisfaction with the inability of the outgoing government to arrest and correct the deteriorating governance of the province.

Administratively, PTI’s main slogan was ending corruption and a better people friendly Police and Revenue department – Thana and Patwar. The answer to overall corruption has been appointment of a retired general to head the provincial NAB, having a consultant for all projects and online bidding. NAB has yet to show anything by way of nabbing any corrupt. Consultants are expected to serve as a check on both the contractor and the concerned government department. At this stage it has shown little impact on smaller projects, but on bigger ones, a contractor remarked, ‘I feed them, provide them office and they use my laboratory’. Same is the case of online bidding; smaller contracts where competition is between larger bidders, it reduces the chance of collusion between them, but in case of big projects where you have a few pre qualified contractors bidding, someone throws a lunch and the whole online system is bypassed.
Police Stations have reportedly shown some improvement in better dealings with public that approach them and some use of modern forensics and other equipment. However, skeptics counter this as being superficial and a result of heavy funding for training coming from international donors in counter terrorism support since 9/11, which is slowly becoming evident. The online FIR system may prove a good step in future but its use currently is not much. In the Patwar or Revenue Department, the change has been from demanding money to requesting it. Its computerization, started by the previous government has yet to be completed.
Hospitals, yet another of PTI’s flagship programs has seen minor cleanliness and a little improvement on availability of medicines but, the much touted program ‘Sehat Ka Insaaf (Health’s Justice) has just waned away, without much impact. There is no innovation or PTI visibility in the much needed Polio Eradication program, carried out as always, by the bureaucracy, as good and as bad as ever. Education has also not seen any impact of the ‘Change’. English was announced as medium of instruction in all government schools, but there are no teachers yet available to teach any subject in it. The only achievement has been the controversial reversal of Syllabi reforms introduced by the previous government and re introduction of the Zia era Jihadi syllabus at school level. Colleges and universities has not been touched yet.  The government has failed to legislate amendments in Universities Governance proposed by its own formed commission.
It has come up with a Local Bodies Law in 2013, which has many merits, but has yet to hold election for them. Imran Khan announced elections in November 2014. The Election Commission said this is not feasible and election can be held sometime in 2015. The Government seems to have forgotten about making arrangement for local bodies even in 2015. While looking at Governance under PTI, one must acknowledge the Right to Information as quite good and gradually, one can expect, its use will increase, helping in transparency, one of the main prerequisites of good governance.
On developmental scale, reportedly about 70% developmental budget lapsed in its first year in office. Half way through the second year, it looked we may see a repeat, however, some projects, have been started. The argument on government side for not spending earlier is that I wanted a corruption free system before launching new schemes. The government has yet to come out with some plan to address the traffic chaos of its capital.
Politically, the provincial government has accused for continuously changing its ministers. Some claim it’s a good sign as PTI is continuously monitoring the performance of its ministers and make changes whenever required. Its detractors call it instability and inability to decide. Its spokesman, the information minister is not even a PTI person; was and independent who joined PTI when PTI got majority in the elections. Many of its detractors claim the PTI government in the province is actually being run from Bani Gala and Lahore. There is a direct intervention from outside the province. That remote control governance is putting strains and stress on the party and government’s performance. However, PTI counters this by claiming the outside intervention to be exaggerated and to the level it is, is welcome expert opinion and help. Some provincial parliamentarians had established a forward bloc, which even if still within the party fold can create serious problems for it. A number of MNAs openly and some not so openly refused to tender resignations during the recent movements. The party’s approach to terrorism, broader law and order situation and the treatment of IDPs from FATA has not received very positive responses from the many observers.
PTI’s performance also suffered during the Darna, as the CM and other leaders were busy in being there and also arranging for people for the Darna, thus their attention was diverted and could not do much, even if it wanted to.  However, Darna kept the focus of its supporters also away and charged; People were discussing Nawaz Sharif, Lahore, Faisalabad and elections and had no time to look at the issues of the province. The PTI government has not done anything visible and loud to make this province a showcase yet. However, it has not blundered seriously too. There are no major scandals doing the rounds privately or publicly. But detractors say there are no scandals because the government is not doing much.

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