Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has seen it all in the outgoing decade. Entering the 2010s with militancy at its peak, the province that was at the forefront of the fight to overcome the scourge has charted what could be one of the country’s greatest success stories.
However, as the province tread the path to rehabilitation towards the latter half of the decade, it has not always encountered small sailing. While the development front saw many small schemes come to fruition, as they enter 2020, K-P residents still hold their breath for big-ticket projects.
The BRT Saga
Arguably the most headline-grabbing development initiative underway in the province is Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit project. When it was launched in October 2017, during Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s first tenure in power in the province, then K-P chief minister Pervez Khattak announced the project would be completed within six months.
More than two years later, the project still trudges along with a new deadline set for February 2020. In the meantime, its cost has jumped to Rs68 billion from the original Rs49 billion estimate. Perhaps hinting at not having the K-P government’s confidence, the Asian Development Bank anticipates a longer completion schedule which finishes in June 2021.
The BRT has attracted its fair share of controversy as well, being criticised by both opposition MPAs on the floor of the K-P Assembly and Peshawar High Court judges during the hearings of cases related to the project. The K-P government and the Peshawar Development Authority have also moved the Supreme Court against the PHC order tasking the Federal Investigation Agency to investigate the megaproject.
More power, but not enough
On the energy front, the province saw many small gains as it continues to wait for high-profile projects to be completed. According to official data, K-P authorities completed 284 out of a planned 356 small-scale hydroelectric power stations to supply power to between 85,000 and 90,000 households. The remaining 24 were dropped on account of being non-feasible. As a whole, however, the new stations will generate about 30MW.
Projects that are projected to add a combined 214MW to the national grid remain under construction despite being initiated during the 2015-16 fiscal year. Three of them – the Koto Hydropower Project in Lower Dir, the Karora Hydropower Project in Shangla and the Jabori Hydropower Project in Mansehra – are set to be completed in the coming year. K-P residents will have to wait even longer for the other two, Matiltan Hydropower Project in Swat and Lawi Hydropower Project in Chitral, which account for almost half the projected electricity output of all the new projects.
In addition to them, the K-P government also announced a 300MW hydropower project in Mansehra in 2018-19. The plant is estimated to cost around Rs85 billion and will be built using funds from the ADB. A loan agreement will be signed after the ADB board’s approval and land acquisition and hiring have already been initiated.
The provincial government will also build three new hydropower schemes – Barikot Patrak and Patrak Shringal in Dir, and Gabral Kalam in Swat – using loans from the World Bank. The projects are estimated to cost $4 million and will generate a combined 179MW.
Four more projects – the 496MW Spat-Gah Hydropower Project in Kohistan, the 157MW Madyan Hydropower Project in Swat and the 188MW Naran and 96MW Batakundi hydropower projects in Mansehra – will be built through a public-private partnership.
Towards universal healthcare
In the health sector, the PTI government’s biggest achievement was the introduction of the Sehat Insaf card to provide health insurance to every resident of K-P. Launched in December 2015 in four districts, the initiative now covers 2.2 million families across the province. According to K-P officials, the government now plans to expand coverage to 6.6 million families and eventually every individual in the province. The PTI government has so far spent Rs5.4 billion on the scheme.
A digital revolution
With many flagship schemes encountering snags, the PTI in its second stint at the helm in K-P has opted to focus more on initiatives that can be implemented immediately, particularly in the IT sector. The K-P Information Technology Board (KPITB) initiated several projects during 2018-19 as part of its strategy to develop digital skills, promote a digital economy and introduce digital governance.
In partnership with the Elementary and Secondary Education Department, KPITB launched early programming initiatives by setting up 1,300 IT labs in government schools across the province and introducing Harvard University’s code.org and MIT’s scratch curriculum.
KPITB also launched Durshal (gateway) Incubation Centres in seven locations across K-P to foster digital entrepreneurship, particularly among women and other disadvantaged groups. Thirteen start-ups were incubated in the first Durshal cohort with an 84 per cent success rate. The second cohort then expanded to 39.
The board also launched fellowship, internship and youth employment programmes to empower the province’s young professionals with digital skills. KPITB also established a Cyber Emergency Response Centre to address data protection challenges. It also introduced the Ittela Digital Reporting Hub to automate and enhance transparency in the police force.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2020.
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