Promises, promises!

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Published in, The Friday Times

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by Zia Ur Rehman

September 6-12, 2013

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The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government led by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) has failed to meet its self-imposed deadline of 90 days to turn the province around, political analysts say.

Before the elections, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had promised that if elected to power, his party would wipe out corruption and mismanagement in 90 days.

“People had high expectations of the PTI because of the highly charged election campaign, so we were under pressure to perform from day one,” said Abdul Qayyum Kundi, a central party leader. “But it is not possible for any government to deliver so quickly, especially if the infrastructure to deliver is not in place.”

Introducing an online FIR system, mobile courts, computerized land records, passing the Right to Information law in the provincial assembly, and the formation of an independent Accountability Commission are key achievements of the PTI, said Shah Farman, a provincial minister. He said legislation for a model local council system in which power and authority will be devolved to the village and tehsil level will be promulgated soon. A conflict of interest law, a right to service law, e-governance and e-businesses laws, a public-private partnership law and a vassal law are also in their final stages.

But rival political parties and some analysts say the PTI government has disappointed the people of the province. “The so-called proponents of change have stopped the process of development and prosperity that the Awami National Party government began, and pushed the province towards backwardness,” said Sher Shah Khan, a former parliamentarian from the ANP elected from Swat. “Results of the by-elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa show that voters cannot be deceived with false promises.”

A key promise made by the party was that it would end corruption. But Muhammad Rome, a Peshawar-based political activist, says representatives from the PTI are working with people notorious for financial embezzlements.

In the August 22 by-elections, ANP candidate Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour won NA-1 (Peshawar), the seat vacated by Imran Khan, defeating the PTI candidate with huge margin. “Peshawarites’ romance with the PTI is over” said a headline in Dawn newspaper. Analysts say the party’s poor performance and internal bickering were the reasons behind the defeat.

There has been a sharp increase in violence in the province since the PTI government took over. “PTI’s stance regarding militants -if they have any – has borne no result,” said Rome. “Their support among the people has drastically diminished because of their weak, confused stance on militancy. Resultantly, militants have become very bold and target whoever they want.”

Two members of the new provincial assembly have been killed in terrorist attacks in the first two months of their term. Both of them were elected independently and later joined the PTI. The total number of members of the provincially assembly members killed by the Taliban in the five years of ANP government was three.

“Voters in the province expected revolutionary changes and an end to the status quo, but the PTI disappointed the silent majority,” said Rehmanullah, a university student in Mardan. He said attacks on schools and polio vaccinators, abductions for ransom, and other crimes had increased in the first 90 days of the PTI-led government.

“The Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak and the increasing influence of militants in the suburbs of Peshawar are governance failures,” said Jan Achakzai, the spokesman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). He said corruption in police, revenue, and excise and taxation departments has continued unabated in the last 90 days.

Analysts monitoring politics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa say a majority of the PTI’s provincial legislators are inexperienced, and have never been elected to the parliament before. “PTI legislators do not have the ability to deal with the people of their constituencies and many of them either changed their mobile phone numbers or moved to Islamabad instead of Peshawar,” said a Peshawar-based journalist. Ministers and legislators have also not been meeting with their party’s youth members. “In a recent meeting at the residence of local legislator Yaseen Khalil in Peshawar, the party’s youth members expressed their resentment in front of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak,” said the journalist, who covers PTI in the province.

These are not the most serious of the internal rifts in the party. In the recent by-elections, Law Minister Israrullah Gandpur was supporting the son of Imran Khan’s archrival Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the NA-25 (DI Khan-cum-Tank) constituency, against PTI candidate Dawar Kundi. The election was postponed because of security concerns. A disgruntled PTI leader Samad Mursaleen contested as an independent candidate on NA-1 (Peshawar), dividing the PTI vote. There are two groups in the party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – one headed by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, and the other led by speaker Asad Qaiser, PTI leaders say.

“One major challenge that the chief minister is facing is creating a consensus among the PTI and the coalition partners,” said Abdul Qayyum Kundi. A PTI legislator from Mardan said coalition partners Jamaat-e-Islami and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) had been pressuring PTI leaders. “For example, the party is being pressured by Jamaat-e-Islami to re-include jihadi material in the province’s textbooks. Before that, it was lobbying for the ministries of education and health.”

The recent alliance between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the JUI-F in the center is likely to cause problems for the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It has also learned that the JUI-F has begun efforts to bring an in-house change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly with the PML-N, the QWP and the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan of Swabi’s Tarakai family. Neither confirming nor denying the move, JUI-F leaders say the decision to allow the PTI to form a government in the province was wrong.

A report in Frontier Post claimed work was secretly under way on a move to bring a no-confidence motion against Pervez Khattak in December. If it succeeds, QWP chief Aftab Sherpao will be the next chief minister. Sources in Peshawar say some PTI legislators will be part of this new coalition. The PML-N denies the report and says it would not participate in such a move –

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