A frequent taunt that confronts the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman, Imran Khan, nowadays is to remind him to first make a ‘new Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ where his party is in power since the May 2013 general election, before making a ‘new Pakistan’.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the latest to challenge Imran on this score. In a speech to the flood-affected people in Punjab’s Uch Sharif area on October 15, he said those making tall claims about their plans to create a ‘new Pakistan’ should first make a ‘new Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’.
Imran has tried to counter this by highlighting the steps taken by the PTI-led coalition government in KP as part of its much-touted reform agenda, but the scorecard concerning his party’s performance is far from satisfactory.
The opposition parties are understandably critical of the PTI’s performance and are unlikely to praise it even if it is able to do better in future. However, an apparent majority of common people and neutral observers and analysts, too, aren’t convinced that the ruling PTI has performed well, considering its 2013 election campaign promises and its agenda for change.
In fact, Imran and other PTI leaders face tough questions with regard to their government’s performance in KP whenever they promise creation of a ‘new Pakistan’ after coming into power at the national level. It isn’t enough for Imran to claim that he has never recommended anyone for appointment to a government job in KP because the same cannot be said of his chief minister, ministers, or other party leaders. He is fond of saying that Chief Minister Pervez Khattak is a ‘malang’ and, therefore, not much concerned about worldly things or money.
Being a conventional politician who has been in politics for more than 30 years and having changed quite a few parties before joining the PTI, the 63-year old Pervez Khattak knows he has to sometimes indulge in favouritism, nepotism, and even violate merit because his voters and supporters expect him to do all these things just like the past chief ministers. It is, therefore, not surprising that he has been devoting special attention to his native Nowshera district while sanctioning development projects and allocating funds and reposing greater trust in people from his area while appointing his aides and making certain other appointments.
However, Imran is justified in claiming that he or his party leaders don’t interfere in the police affairs in the province and have given a free hand to the Inspector General of Police, Nasir Khan Durrani, who belongs to Punjab. The PTI chairman and Pervez Khattak deserve credit for allowing the IGP to run the police as a professional force. However, this also has much to do with Nasir Durrani’s forceful personality because he reportedly made it clear when Imran offered him the job that he won’t allow any political interference in his work. He has used this opportunity to bring certain institutional reforms in the KP police, set up a number of training centres and schools to train cops and bomb disposal and intelligence personnel, and carry out recruitment on merit by handing over the job to the National Testing Service (NTS).
Tough measures against corruption and misuse of powers in the police has for the first time led to sacking of a considerable number of policemen, including those in higher ranks. Senior cops aren’t always happy with the IGP, but he is able to do whatever he wants because he doesn’t belong to KP and has no stakes in the province.
There is, however, an uneasy feeling that all this may be undone if another IGP, who is weak and ineffective, is posted or if Imran and his party succumb to pressure from their lawmakers and workers to return to the old ways by offering them job quotas in the police and making postings and transfers on their recommendation. It is also possible that the other reforms undertaken by the PTI-led coalition government are cancelled once it is out of power and the province has new rulers.
After all, voters in KP have built a reputation for making their rulers accountable in every general election and throwing them out of power after just one term in office. The PTI’s fate would be no different from the MMA, ANP, and PPP which were shown the door after having failed to deliver while being in power.
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One has this feeling that the PTI is already facing decline in popularity. It is doing well in the assembly by-elections because the opposition parties are yet to offer a better alternative after having failed to deliver during their stint in power.
On occasions, poorly-thought-out reforms and policy decisions taken by the PTI government have backfired. One concerned an attempt to seek better media coverage for the provincial government. On Imran’s directive, the provincial government decided to restructure the information department and transfer most of its employees to other departments.
At the same time, a PTI activist was appointed as media adviser to the chief minister to effectively head the information affairs of the government. The information department employees arbitrarily transferred to other departments challenged the decision in the Peshawar High Court and got stay order and eventually a favourable verdict. The rejected candidates for the office of the media adviser also approached the court, alleging favouritism and obtained stay order. The PTI government looked helpless as the Peshawar High Court’s independent-minded judges gave judgments that blocked implementation of some of its policy decisions.
There is, no doubt, that the PTI government has been able to do significant legislation through the provincial assembly to implement certain aspects of its reform agenda. Its Right to Information Act has been rated the best not only in Pakistan but also in the region, the Right to Services Act is something rare in the country, a bill offering some concessions to the elderly people is being made into a law, and the promised Ehtesab Commission for undertaking accountability in the province has been set up.
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The Ehtesab Commission’s members were picked up by a high-powered search committee comprising credible persons. Former Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen (Retd) Hamid Khan, a no-nonsense general with a clean reputation, agreed to become the director general of the Ehtesab Commission after being offered the job by the search committee.
It would be interesting to watch the working of the Ehtesab Commission in the backdrop of Imran’s oft-repeated promise to go after the corrupt and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak’s claim that it would have powers to make him accountable also. The PTI government has certainly done good legislation, but implementation of laws continues to be a major challenge in Pakistan. Overcoming this shortcoming would test the commitment and competence of the ruling PTI.
The PTI still has time to make amends as 16 months in power isn’t enough to deliver on its promises. However, it would have to first instill discipline in PTI ranks and give a direction to its lawmakers, who are overwhelmingly first-timers and are keen to enjoy the fruits of power. Such is the indiscipline in PTI ranks that its government would have fallen by now if the defection law wasn’t tough.
Three party MNAs refused to resign on Imran’s orders as part of his ongoing agitation to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to quit. As many as 14 PTI members of the provincial assembly formed a ‘pressure group’ to advance their cause.
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, known for his expertise in deal-making to make or break governments, may have done well to appease the dissidents by offering them cabinet positions, but those left out could ask for more in future.
A party MPA, Javed Naseem, has been particularly critical of his own party government and has not even spared Imran. All this is being keenly watched by the KP electorate who voted the PTI into power to herald change by setting up a government that is disciplined, reformist, and clean. This hasn’t happened yet and the PTI would have to hurry up if it wants to avoid the fate that befell the MMA, ANP and PPP.