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Huge task of removing systemic flaws awaits new govt

May 16, 2013

PESHAWAR, May 15: As Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is close to establishing its rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a massive job awaits it in the province to remove systemic flaws by introducing multidimensional reforms to be able to implement its manifesto.

There are quite a few among experts, with knowledge and experience in governance, who believe that fulfillment of PTI election promises are beyond the capacity of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s incumbent bureaucracy.

“Most of the bureaucrats holding important positions in Peshawar are men of average intelligence, no vision, and marginal administrative skills,” said a private sector development planner associated with a foreign agency.

A seasoned Khyber Pakhtunkhwa parliamentarian who has closely seen the provincial bureaucratic functioning told Dawn that the province had a very few bright officers. When it comes to officers of the District Management Group, according to him, the province does not have many.

“Not many DMGs want to serve in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, leaving it a bunch of promotees and provincial civil services officers performing duties beyond their capacity and talent,” said the lawmaker.

PTI has promised to improve governance, empower people at the grassroots and undertake institutional, economic, and structural reforms.

“PTI’s agenda is one of change and we intend to initiate change across the board in the first 90 days of coming to power before vested interest can become entrenched again,” the party says at the end of its 43-page election manifesto.

PTI’s election manifesto promises an ‘agenda of change’ at the national level. However, the May 11 election results have restricted its program’s scope Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the party’s has emerged as the single largest party.

By virtue of the opportunity to govern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI can test the workability and rationality of its program, promising to decentralize “state structures through devolution that empower people at the grassroots level by providing viable administrative structures and enabling people to take control of their lives by giving them economic control of decision making.”

Promising to improve the economy by turning it around to make it robust and develop it to its full potential, PTI’s manifesto commits to ‘declare five point emergency’, if voted to power. The five points include energy sector reforms, expenditure reform, revenue collection reform, human capital development in health/education/skill development, and institutional reform by undertaking anti corruption measures and introducing accountability and governance reforms.

While the party might need years to fully implement its agenda of change and achieve the targeted results, it still can accomplish several things within the first 90 days of its rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Its ‘expenditure emergency’ reforms promise to shut down ‘symbols of Pomp and Glory’ and convert them into places of public use. Among such places that can be shut down in Peshawar include the governor house. While the party might need some time to wind up the existing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor house and convert its sprawling premises into a place of public use, the party can immediately wind up the chief minister house since it would be occupied by a PTI man and it would be in PTI’s capacity to fulfil its election promise.

A similar promise had been made by Jamaat-i-Islami before it came into power in 2002. However, JI failed to fulfil its election promise citing reasons beyond its control as the chief minister’s house was, at that time, had a chief minister who belonged to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.

PTI’s ‘expenditure emergency’ also commits to ‘limit’ perks of ministers, members of the national assembly, members of the provincial assembly and civil bureaucrats.

Besides, it also promises to ‘eliminate all discretionary funds (including the provincial chief minister’s and governor’s) and no development funds of parliamentarians.”

“The big question is whether the PTI government will have the required expertise to implement its agenda of change that promises to establish a paradise,” said Dr. Ijaz Khan Khattak, a senior academician of the University of Peshawar, when asked whether the party’s central leadership would micro manage the elected provincial government from Lahore, where its core economic team is based.

PTI is set to pass its first litmus test in June this year before the presentation of the provincial budget for the next financial year.

As part of its election promise, PTI has promised to frame ‘the right to information law, rules and regulations.’ It has committed to ensure ‘timely production of budget processes in line with international standards and ensuring public access by key budget documents.’

“A pre-budget statement will be produced and made publicly available at least four weeks before the budget is presented before the parliament,” contains PTI’s manifesto.

PTI, however, might not be able to fulfill this promise.

The upcoming provincial government is not likely to have ample time to frame the ‘Right to Information’ law (though the caretaker government is already working on it) and issue the pre-budget statement before the presentation of the budget.Another big PTI promise is ‘progressing towards becoming a welfare state.’ In this respect, the party has committed that the state would provide ‘one system of education for all its citizens, equal opportunity and a social safety net for the unemployed and the infirm.’

As part of its ‘revenue collection emergency,’ its manifesto commits the provincial government to play due role in implementing ‘law of preeminent domain.’ It also promises to end ‘Benami’ transactions.