Hat-trick in K-P

PTI government should introduce system-wide reforms for making public sector more responsive and efficient

M Zeb Khan March 03, 2024
The writer is a PhD in Administrative Sciences and associated with SZABIST, Islamabad. He can be reached at dr.zeb@szabist-isb.edu.pk


Call them as you choose but the people of K-P have once again reposed trust in PTI by voting it to power for three consecutive terms. And as a matter of fact, they have not shown this magnanimity to any other political party including the nationalist ANP, the religious JUI and JI, or the mainstream PML-N and PPP. The general rule there had been, “first government is your last government if you do not deliver” but PTI has got an exception. Does this indicate a strong sense of democratic ethos, cult-following or expression of overt resistance and covert resentment? I think it is a mixture of all three but can best be understood through systematic research into the dynamics of the Pathans’ history, culture and consciousness as they play out in politics.

Whatever the underlying reason for its spectacular success, notwithstanding tremendous state oppression, pre-poll rigging and post-poll result manipulation, PTI must show exceptional performance to pay back the people of K-P with good governance and socio-economic development. It would not have perhaps won quarter of its current seats if it was based purely on past performance. The party had emerged in Pakistani politics with promises of change, accountability and development. Its first tenure in K-P marked a significant chapter, showcasing both successes and shortcomings in governance and socio-economic development, but its second term paints a picture of unfulfilled promises and dwindling progress.

Universities, hospitals and other government departments had hard time paying their bills and salaries to employees not to mention the staggering increase in debt burden and spending on non-development activities. Projects necessary for economic development and new social services were almost non-existent except a few CPEC projects and the trumped-up Sehat Card. Corruption was as pervasive or even worse as it could have ever been! Public services, including sanitation, security, education and emergency services, were both insufficient and poor in quality even in big cities. The situation in rural areas was worse off with crowded hospitals, delipidated roads, persistent loadshedding and increased lawlessness!

The people of newly merged districts did not see much difference in their living standards due to no or little access to public services. Extra funds promised to them for development were either held back or pocketed by the power elite. Many Task Forces were formed to bring the merged districts on a par with others in terms of creating economic opportunities, providing people access to justice, education and healthcare, and improving the security situation but the conditions on ground presented a gloomy picture thanks primarily to the ineffective provincial government. Resultantly, the deteriorating security situation and economic deprivation continued to pose serious threats to the integrity of Pakistan.

This time around, PTI has no excuses to make, although some of its leaders have started shifting blame to the Centre and others-are-worse rhetoric. It would not be less than a grand deception to use slogans, stories and symbols for manipulating public emotions or play the victim card during election campaigns and walk away from substantial problems the province faces. Real change requires concerted efforts to implement effective policies, mobilise resources and foster collaboration to promote sustainable development and improve the quality of life for the people.

The new PTI government should introduce system-wide reforms (both cultural and structural) for making the public sector more responsive, responsible and efficient without harming its core value of political neutrality. One way of enhancing efficiency and reducing waste will be to make extensive use of information technology besides creating autonomous bodies run by professionals who have knowledge of the local context and thorough understanding of the international best management practices. Euphoria over massive election win should now be translated into true socio-economic development of the province as a model for others to emulate.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2024.

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