Putting promises of change to the litmus test

Published: December 30, 2014
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A family mourns the death of Mohammed Ali Khan, 15, a student who was killed in the ruthless December 16 at Army Public School attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

A family mourns the death of Mohammed Ali Khan, 15, a student who was killed in the ruthless December 16 at Army Public School attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHAWAR: 

Looking back at 2014 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in fact all of Pakistan, has to start with what happened towards its end – the massacre of children by terrorists.

That day angered and saddened almost everyone, everywhere, but for a few. The tragedy of December 16, 2014 shows the failure of this State as whole, with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-ruled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) as one part of it. It was a systemic failure and did not ‘just happen’. The perpetrators of the tragedy were not only the few who carried it out or their immediate leaders, pointing at the fast-growing irrelevancy of State and its writ; it was a failure of governance and all its parts: administrative, political, economic/developmental and socio cultural. PTI was voted in by the electorate of K-P largely due to their dissatisfaction with the inability of the outgoing government to arrest and correct the deteriorating governance of the province.

Administratively, PTI’s main slogan was ending corruption, with improved, people-friendly police and revenue departments—the thana and patwar—its poster children. The answer to overall corruption has been the appointment of a retired general to head the provincial NAB, and having a consultant for all projects and online bidding.

NAB has yet to show anything by way of nabbing any corruption. Consultants are expected to serve as a check on both the contractor and the relevant government department. At this stage it has shown little impact on smaller projects, but on bigger ones, a contractor remarked, “I feed them, provide them an office and they use my laboratory.” Online bidding doesn’t fare better: smaller contracts competed on by larger bidders reduces the chance of collusion between them. But in case of big projects where you have a few pre-qualified contractors bidding, someone throws a lunch and the whole online system is bypassed.

Police stations have reportedly shown some improvement in better dealings with the public that approaches them and in some use of modern forensics and other equipment. However, skeptics counter this, labeling it as superficial and a result of heavy funding for training coming from international donors in counterterrorism support since 9/11.

In the revenue department, the change has been from demanding money to requesting it. Its computerization, started by the previous government, is yet to be completed. Hospital reforms, yet another one of PTI’s flagship programmes, have included minor cleanliness and some improvement by way of availability of medicines. But Sehat Ka Insaaf has just waned away, without much impact. There is no innovation in the much-needed polio eradication programme, carried out as always, by the bureaucracy.

Education has also not seen any impact of the ‘change’. English was announced as medium of instruction in all government schools, but there are few teachers available to teach any subject in it. The change which came was the controversial reversal of syllabi reforms introduced by the previous government and the reintroduction of the Ziaul Haq-era syllabus at the school level. The government has also failed to legislate amendments in universities’ governance proposed by its own commission.

The K-P government came up with a local bodies’ law in 2013, which has many merits, but has yet to hold elections under it.

Many of its detractors claim the PTI government in K-P is actually being run from Bani Gala and Lahore. PTI counters this by claiming the outside intervention to be exaggerated and to the level it takes place; it is welcome expert opinion and help.

PTI’s performance also suffered during the dharna, as the CM and other leaders were busy elsewhere arranging for crowds to attend sit-ins. It took the attention of the public away from issues of the province.

The PTI government did not blunder too seriously either. There were no major scandals doing the rounds privately or publicly.

Professor Ijaz Khan works for the Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar and has authored the book ‘Pakistan Strategic Culture and Foreign policy Making’

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2014.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • n
    Dec 31, 2014 - 1:40AM

    Wow. This literally could not get any more biased.
    First of all, as far as terrorism is concerned, KP is surrounded by FATA on 3 sides. The surveillance of extremists in FATA is the federal govt’s responsibility, so before lynching PTI how about we scrutinize PMLN first for even letting the extremists cross the Afghan border, roam freely in FATA, and smuggle themselves in KP.
    Second, it’s been statistically proven that the crime/terror rate in KP has decreased under PTI. One major thing, which you so conveniently forgot to mention, was that for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a police force has been depoliticised. So while the police in Punjab was out there killing protestors for exercising their human rights, KP police did not meddle in any politics whatsoever. For the first time in Pak history, KP police had constables recruited through NTS and not nepotism. But no, lets ignore that too.
    Lets come to the education sector. First of all, the syllabus of both private and public schools has been unified and you choose to disregard it like it is some small feat. For the first time in Pak history, a govt has legislated and enforced for equal education to be provided to both the poor and the rich. But yet, you so conveniently forgot that and focused on the fact that there are a few teachers who can thoroughly implement this. Of course the teachers are not fully equiped; they havent been fully equipped for the last 67 years. So if you expect headmaster Jan Sher Khan to become Isaac Newton in one year, you’re mistaking yourself. The “Zia Ul Haq era syllabus” that you are talking about is literally just a syllabus that added information about Islamic scientists and a few Islamic verses throughout the course. If adding Islamic verses qualifies as a “Zia Ul Haq” syllabus, then why is Pakistan an “Islamic Republic” in the first place? You also chose to ignore the TameerESchool initiative through which dozens of schools were furnished. Not only that, all KP schools will get furniture by June of 2015 (maybe if you’d done your research you’d have stumbled upon the article which stated so.)
    Third, lets come to health. The Sehat ka Insaaf that according to you just ” waned away” did not in fact, just wane away. It managed to wipe out polio in Peshawar, once deemed the polio hub by WHO, for the first time in Pak history. But no, lets disregard that too because that’s not change at all, is it? Ask anyone in KP, treatment in hospitals is free and the medicines are free. Again, this has happened first time in Pak history, but lets choose to ignore that too.
    Lastly, lets come to the tragic terror attack that happened. When the horrible events of 9/11 happened, nobody lynched the governor of NY. You know why? Because it’s common sense that matters of security mainly lie within your federal agencies like ISI,MI, and FIA. Moreover, the school was in the army cantt where the responsibility of the security fell under army hands. However, I’m not saying that the KP govt is totally guilt free. It has some responsibility and it has taken responsibility for it. But maybe instead of focusing on the one tragic event, maybe for a news article, you’d have also wanted to focus on literally the hundreds of bombs that the KP police has defused too. But no, since this was an Anti PTI article, there was no space for legit facts here.

    ET please publish my comment. Just because it refutes the argument of the author doesnt mean it doesnt have the right to be published.

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  • Zia
    Dec 31, 2014 - 10:53AM

    Despite clear hatred of the writer towards PTi, he is still forced to say “There were no major scandals doing the rounds privately or publicly.”

    I think that is an achievement , which cannot be quoted towards any other party in power since the beginning of Pakistan.

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  • Paindoo
    Dec 31, 2014 - 2:26PM

    I smell some kind of vandetta or personal hatred here. The author has managed to highlight the shortcomings of the government but failed to shed some light on the achievements.

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