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Peshawar — a city without a father

November 26, 2017

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For the umpteenth time, the road blockade in Peshawar has brought home the point that this capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a city without a father, an orphan nobody is willing to adopt.

That’s the story of the teeming city of millions. Doesn’t matter, who lords over Peshawar - the district nazim, the capital city police, or the deputy commissioner – when it came to action to alleviate the miseries of its denizens, they look in different directions as if either they were alien to the city or the city didn’t belong to them.

Consider two issues: both instant. The Saturday road-blockade by a little over two hundred Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah activists at Jameel Chowk on the Ring Road not only cut off the southern bypass connecting the Grand Trunk Road at one end to Hayatabad at the other but also increased pressure on the dug-up city, already facing traffic jams on account of poorly-executed bus transit project.

The road could have been cleared in no time, had the police shown some grit and courage. Restraint and patience is the mantra for those at the helm, not wanting to create any troubles, doesn’t matter if the hundreds of thousands of people commuting the city face hardship.

The district nazim, who, being a public representative, is supposed to prove his usefulness in such matters, to negotiate with protestors, almost always goes incommunicado.

The district administration needs to be forgiven, for they know not what their role is in the post Musharraf devolution world. Reduced to price magistracy and district government, the district administration post the 18th Amendment has lost its tooth and fangs.

The devolution plan conceived by the cigar-smoking Gen Naqvi has dealt a mortal blow to whatever semblance of governance there was of state authority in the country. And whatever remained was taken away by the KP Police Act 2017 which insulated the police force altogether from any civilian oversight.

So, here it is. Legally speaking, the law and order, not just the crime or the war against terror, is the police’s responsibility. But, while it has been doing a stupendous job against terror outfits and terrorists, when it comes to matter of law and order, they avoid their responsibility like a plague.

And this isn’t new. The rot had started during Musharraf’s rule, when the then chief secretary, Shakil Durrani, had to intervene and negotiate directly with a mob led by no other a person than a local nazim in Peshawar as the police looked on as bystanders.

Somehow, unfortunately, the road-blockades as a pressure tool to press for acceptance of demands have become more frequent during the present political dispensation. The ruling PTI in Peshawar is reaping the fruit of its seeds it has itself sown in D-Chowk, Islamabad.

Official correspondence between a former deputy commissioner, Peshawar and the then CCP, IGP and the commissioner, Peshawar and hapless chief minister reaching out to the leader of the opposition in the KP Assembly to help adopt a “unanimous resolution to “empower” the executive to take action against protesters blocking Peshawar’s main artery speaks volumes of the literally dysfunctional state where we find ourselves in today.

Let’s ask these very simple questions from those at the helm: Is there a policy to deal with a law and order situation? Are there any SoPs? Who is going to take the decision?

Find the answers to these questions and you would arrive at a conclusion. There is no policy. There are no SoPs. And there is no one to take the call. The only policy there seems to be is that there is no policy. Just let the situation continue and die its own natural death.

If there is a road blockade, let it continue. Let the peaceful citizens suffer till either the protesters are exhausted or God intervenes on behalf of His people and rid them of the menace by a sending a hailstorm to disperse the mob. This is the only policy that persists as of now and the only SoP that is in operation.

So, wonder why, the “traffic” traffic plan so devised to ease pubic inconvenience to cope with road digging for the transit system has not seen any light of the day? Why is Peshawar seeing traffic jams and chaos on its roads, when supposedly people were to be facilitated to use alternative routes?

Why the Afghan-bound containers continue to ply via Hayatabad, even if no less an officer than the incumbent chief secretary reportedly, intervened twice to speak directly to the city bosses? Wonder why the director general PDA is still not able to clear the path for a direct link up between Hayatabad and University Town by just speaking to the divisional officer railways despite push and shove from the above? And despite spending billions to “restore its past glory”, why Peshawar still gives the looks of some archaeological ruins?

The answer is simple: it is an orphan city, a city without a father, a city that has too many chiefs but not enough Indians.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2017