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Inexperienced PTI faces massive challenge

May 15, 2013

PESHAWAR, May 14: With Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf holding the centre stage in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s power politics, its likelihood to lead the next provincial government has arisen mixed sentiments among experts.

“How would PTI manage governance affairs and crucial issues facing the province appears to be a big question,” Dr Ijaz Khan Khattak, senior faculty member at the Department of International Affairs, University of Peshawar, told Dawn on Tuesday.Its first test, said Mr Khattak, was the formulation of a coalition government in the province.

“The party has never been in power politics and the mandate it got is beyond everybody’s expectations,” said the senior academician.

Israrullah Gandapur, an independent member-elect of the provincial assembly from Dera Ismail Khan, said PTI carried a mixed bag of hope and despair.

“It consists of young parliamentarians and young people are held by idealism so this idealism can make some really good things happen for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.

Mr Gandapur, however, said governance involved a lot of nitty-gritty with which PTI and its provincial legislators were not familiar and that whether they would be able to enjoy goodwill among the provincial bureaucracy or not, it would remain to be seen.“It is commonly believed that the first 100 days are sufficient to monitor steam of a government,” said Mr Gandapur, who has closely seen the provincial bureaucracy during his last 10 years as a provincial lawmaker.

Dr Ijaz Khattak said PTI had taken the public sentiments very high by adopting a populist approach during its electioneering, leaving it with a gigantic task to fulfill its election promises.

Among 35-member PTI provincial parliamentary party, there are a handful of members, who have governance experience. They include the party’s parliamentary leader in the provincial assembly elect, Pervez Khattak, who has served as the provincial minister more than once.

Similarly, PTI MPA-elect from Haripur Yousaf Ayub remained the local government minister in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government in the province, whereas Sardar Idrees, an MPA-elect from Abbottabad, served as the local government minister in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government from 2002 to 2007.

In another case, PTI MPA-elect from Peshawar Yasin Khalil, previously associated with Pakistan People’s Party, worked as nazim of Peshawar’s Town-III under the Musharraf era’s local government system.

Most of PTI MPAs-elect would represent their constituencies for the first time in the House and several of them are quite young.

However, the inexperienced team that PTI chief Imran Khan has put in place for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not the only challenge that is faced by his party.

“The party has two known groups within its parliamentary party which might complicate things further, undermining its performance,” said Dr Khattak.

PTI central general secretary and MPA-elect from Nowshera Pervez Khattak leads one of the groups, while the other one is led by the party’s provincial chief, Asad Qaiser, MPA-elect from Swabi.

“Being someone who has changed political loyalties several times in the past, Mr Khattak’s pragmatism is likely to cost Imran Khan dearly,” said the political scientist.

Responding to media reports that the PTI chief has nominated Asad Qaiser as his party’s nominee for the chief minister’s slot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Israrullah Gandapur said PTI had taken a big gamble.

“Pervez Khattak is a seasoned campaigner and knows how to deal with bureaucracy and what it takes to maintain the party’s parliamentary strength in the House,” said Mr Gandapur.

He said in his years of a member of the provincial assembly during the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government from 2002 to 2007, he had seen how tactfully the MMA leaders handled the provincial bureaucracy, making them comply with their orders.

“It was even easy for bureaucracy to make its position understood by the senior MMA leaders as both sides knew the art of coexistence,” said the lawmaker-elect.

Similarly, according to Mr Gandapur, Awami National Party leaders had ample past governance experience as a result of which it was easy for them to make the bureaucracy implement their orders.

“My parliamentary experience tells me that PTI can only deliver if it works as a team taking all sides along,” he said.