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It is time to perform for every party in power

Updated July 05, 2013
— File
— File

ISLAMABAD: Elections are long over and governments have been formed. Now is the time primarily for different political parties in the saddle in the four provinces to live up to their election promises.

They would all be striving to prove their worth during the next five years so that they can reclaim voters’ confidence.

On the face of it, the task of good performance should be easiest for the PML-N, which rules not only the majority and the most prosperous province, Punjab, but also commands absolute majority at the centre. Above all, the party has a long experience of governance and claims to have done well in the worst circumstances. This time, though, it faces huge challenges of fixing “a broken economy” and combating the demons of corruption and terrorism – and the energy crisis.

Some, however, may have an issue with the way PML-N tackles the admittedly daunting problems - like the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s triumphant announcement at a press conference on Thursday that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) had agreed in principle to lend Pakistan $5.3 billion to pay off an old IMF debt. “That is in line with our election manifesto,” he added.

Political analysts hope the PML-N would keep in mind that the bad performance of the PPP, its predecessor and traditional rival, confined the once popular party to its home base in Sindh. Its octogenarian leader Qaim Ali Shah is back in the chief minister seat there, with almost the same faces in his cabinet.

In Balochistan, the nationalists have been given the chance to manage the restive province.

It may be the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), however, that finds the going gets tough in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Of all the parties represented in the national and provincial assemblies, PTI is tasting power for the first time. PTI will be facing testing times since polling the second largest number of votes across the country, and giving a tough time to the PML-N in its home ground Punjab. It will be under tremendous pressure to put up a good show, both as a ruling and an opposition party.

But its inspiring leader Imran Khan sounds undaunted in taking on the challenge. Recently, he boasted that PTI would set such standards of performance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that it would be the envy of other provincial governments and also a role model.

Political commentators agree that if the party achieves even half the boast in the violence-raked province, the next electoral fight in the country would be between the PML-N and PTI. Many believe it will be a make or break test for the party.

Imran Khan shared some of the initiatives the party proposes to undertake in KP with the district-level party office bearers of Punjab. In a meeting with them in Islamabad last Sunday, he said the party would set up a powerful autonomous accountability commission to give a corruption-free administration to the province.

Unlike the federal NAB (National Accountability Bureau), the KP commission will operate without any government control. It will be powerful enough to take to task even the province’s chief minister and his cabinet members for financial and administrative mismanagement.

That would be nothing less than a revolutionary development as every government, civil or military, that ever ruled the country claimed it would crush corruption but mostly ended up victimising its opponents in the name of accountability.

Imran Khan seems much impressed by the likes of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange and the most recent whistleblower Edward Snowden for he said he was working on a whistleblower act which will guarantee jobs and reward the government servants and private citizens who help unearth financial scandals in the provincial government departments.

Assange and Snowden have shaken up mighty governments all over the world by exposing their ‘dirty works’ done in secret.

Though bold and interesting, the idea still sounded unthinkable in a society where submission to the superior is order of the day and challenging seniors on moral grounds is near absent.

Then, according to Mr Khan, the PTI government in KP will introduce services act to make government departments accountable to the public. Under this law, if a certain department fails to initiate action within a stipulated time on the application of citizens, concerned officials will face financial penalties. And in the case of efficiency, the government will reward them with cash bonuses.

Even now, complaint cells exist in all government departments at the federal and provincial levels, seldom for the intended purpose. It will be interesting to see how the KP government addresses the problem such as a junior officer picking up the courage to take action on a complaint against the head of his department.

Associating wealthy overseas Pakistanis in the development of villages in KP is another unique idea the PTI leaders believe can do wonders in the province. Pakistani expatriates willing to help folks back home will be allotted villages to contribute to development work. Good concept but the good Samaritans would want law and order improved first.

With kidnapping for ransom and other crime an ever-present possibility, the number of overseas Pakistanis trekking home for vacations has been falling. It will take real improvement in the security situation to induce them to spare time and money and visit a remote village in district Ugi or on the Babusar top where militants frequently strike in sectarian frenzy.

Still, the PTI has to meet the challenges and perform to be true to its leader’s claim that “nobody can stop the PTI from winning the 2018 general elections”.