‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’ (George Eliot)
Pervez Khattak, who took over as the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the last day of May, 2013, is not a novice to the corridors of power. He has been in politics for decades and, on several occasions, the minister of one important department or the other, including industries and irrigation.
People may forget and forgive Pervez Khattak for how he performed in the past – as they did recently during the general election by returning him both to the national and provincial assemblies, but they will neither forget nor forgive him for what he does in his present stint as the chief executive. Going by the rhetoric that Mr Khattak seems to be using as his most potent weapon, one can only sympathise with him and the party that he has chosen to launch himself anew.
Immediately after assuming the charge of chief minister, Pervez Khattak set himself the herculean task of bringing about a well-pronounced change after ninety days; 29 days have since passed and little to see of the promised change. On June 26, a frail looking, sixty something chief minister was seen sitting at the end of a long table with endless lines of officials on his left and right. He was said to be presiding over a meeting at the end of which it was announced that the officials attending the meeting will submit a new master plan for the betterment of the battered city of Peshawar.
Here is something to change now. Perhaps none of the officials attending the meeting informed the new chief minister about the fate of numerous master plans prepared previously and now hanging on the seeping and decayed walls of Peshawar Development Authority and the Planning & Development Department (P&D) begging attention. They very shrewdly avoided pinning responsibility since the dial would have tilted in their direction.
Since the meeting is also said to have taken stock of the seemingly uncontrollable and uncorrectable traffic in Peshawar and the awful sewage system, the officials attending the meeting did not inform the chief minister what they had been doing so far. These gentlemen must have attended similar meetings in the past where they must have been assigned these tasks which they have failed to carry out if one is to go by the evidence on ground.
The current chief minister was the minister of irrigation for nearly three years during the last government before he quit. During his tenure, the once picturesque canal chain running around and deep within the walled city ran thick with sewerage and filth of indescribable nature with no one paying heed. The canal could have been a great boon for the city and cantonment and it used to be once when it had been conceived and newly laid.
The gentleman who is presently the chief minister’s right arm as his principal secretary was then the secretary irrigation department. Since he could not deliver then, the chief justice of Peshawar High Court had to take notice of it, ordering cleaning of the canal. The orders are pending to be carried out.
Pervez Khattak must realise before it is too late that he can only order; the men who have to carry out the orders are the same and that is something he can fix only with great pain. He must set himself realistic goals that can be achieved by his team of officials who with their lackadaisical performances have failed many governments before him. Mr Khattak cannot uproot Peshawar and install a new city in its place in ninety days. Also, if he could, he should put an end to the horde of brief-cases clutching consultants descending on KP’s metropolis, from Punjab’s citadel of Lahore, getting briefings from Peshawar’s officialdom and leaving their own home-cooked panaceas to cure the rotten system, called bureaucracy. Please be sure that in their zeal to invent a “Naya Pakistan”, these consultants do not end of dismantling the whole system at the expense of creating jobs for themselves.
And he and his political master, the cricket star of yore, Mr Imran Khan would do a world of good to their image if they avoid setting and announcing deadlines. The clock is already clicking on holding local bodies elections in 90 days, of which 26 days have passed with the local government having no clue if and when would these be held.
Upon leaving office, Haider Hoti had thanked his team of bureaucrats profoundly for extending him support. Pervez Khattak must ask himself what kind of support was that which routed Hoti’s party in the election? Not for his tall talking and showering unsolicited and unqualified praise on his officials, but for putting the right cogs in the right wheels will Mr Khattak be remembered.