My friend and colleague, Fahd Hussain, has written in his incisive article “United States of Punjab” about the excellent work being done by the PML-N government in its home province, Punjab. Fahd observes that both prime minister Nawaz Sharif and chief minister Shahbaz Sharif have moved away from building roads and bridges to a renewed emphasis on the social sector which includes important areas like health and education.
There have been a number of initiatives and what he notes is that there is a genuine desire on part of the Punjab government to take up the challenge. The same cannot be said for the bureaucracy of other provinces.
Punjab is moving ahead. Whether it is the major cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi or Faisalabad, or even the badlands of the deep south, we see progress that can only come from determination at the very top.
In comparison, what we see is that the other provinces are lagging behinds by leaps and bounds. Take Sindh for example. Here we have a sleeping chief minister who only jumps into action when his authority is challenged by the center because he has not doing been doing his job in the first place.
Between Qaim Ali Shah and Asif Ali Zardari, the province has been treated as a personal fiefdom. Corruption has eroded any sense of governance, patronage has reached new levels and friends and family have been accommodated and enriched at the expense of the masses.
The plan is to loot and plunder for as long as possible. And any attempt to check this trend is seen as a challenge against democracy. The parliament stands up in arms when the center wants to enhance the powers of the Rangers.
Keeping aside the principled argument, given the cesspool that Karachi has become, how else can one tackle the problem? What has the police done or rather, what has the chief minister let the police do?
The mandate given by the people of Karachi to the MQM once again shows how frustrated they are with the provincial government, which has been only disappointed over the past eleven years or so. The PPP has turned Karachi into one the worst cities in the region in terms of livability.
In rural Sindh, things are even worse. What is unfortunate is that the Peoples Party still wields the influence to buy itself another term. But if things go the way they are, the PPP will lose Sindh after the next general elections the same way it has lost its support in Punjab. Does that bother them? Possibly not.
In Balochistan, we see that the PML-N has given power to its provincial president Nawab Sanaullah Zehri who was recently elected unopposed as the 22nd chief minister of the province. No candidate submitted nomination papers for the post.
Earlier, Dr Abdul Malik relinquished the charge of CM following a meeting with Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai. After completing half of his tenure, Malik had paved the way for Zehri, the ruling party’s Balochistan president, whom Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had nominated as the next CM earlier this month in accordance with the tripartite Murree agreement. But political compromises cannot help in the development of a province.
Today Balochistan stands in the stone ages. Its social indicators are amongst the worst in South Asia. The same PML-N that has done so well in Punjab is reluctant to let Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area, progress.
It is also unfortunately true that while Dr Abdul Malik Baloch was relatively progressive in thinking, Zehri may be a bad choice. In 2008, he had stirred a storm in parliament by suggesting that the burying alive of five Baloch women in an ‘honour’ crime in the province was a part of tradition.
Possibly the only hope in any province to rival the fast pace of Punjab we see is in KP where the PTI is in power. While there have been a number of initiatives in place, possibly the biggest drawback that the KP chief minister suffers is that his party is not at the center and his elder brother is not the prime minister. For his part, it is for the prime minister now to decide whether he is PM of Pakistan or of Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2016.
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