The ‘Agenda of Change and Development’ for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) set out by Imran Khan, leader of the PTI, has the potential to be truly transformative for the province. Top of the 13-point list is the abolition of discretionary funds for all provincial legislators. There are few pots of public money more widely abused than discretionary funds. They are an open invitation to legislators to favour cronies and advance their own interests. Nowhere in the country have they been utilised as they were intended and their abolition is not going to please every politician, indeed quite the opposite. Their abolition is a bold move and not without political risks, but in future financial powers and cash are to be devolved and a provincial finance commission is to be set up that will disburse funding free of political interference. Whilst we applaud the underlying principles, we do wonder how this sea-change in fiscal culture is to be achieved, and do not expect the process to be glitch-free.
Other proposals include a conflict of interest law, a long overdue reform of the police, the recruitment of 40,000 new teachers and every government-funded post that is recruited in future will be through the National Testing Service. This latter proposal may at last address the scourge of nepotism and poor quality recruitment, which has dragged virtually all public services into a swamp of mediocrity over the years. Also on the agenda is a reform of the lower judiciary and a mass transit project for Peshawar.
Given the diversity of proposals, it is clear that this is not a set of plug-and-play solutions to a complex ganglion of issues. Some are interlocked, and not all are going to be popular and may be resisted in some quarters. Implementation is going to be uneven. Even so this does genuinely appear to be a viable agenda for change in a province that has been accused of being a bastion of conservative backwards-thinking, where change at a fundamental level was not on the agenda. The lives of Everyman may be touched, affected, and improved by these proposals and we wish them well.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2016.
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