PESHAWAR: Through joint struggle and efforts, the political parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have won certain noteworthy rights for the province including its renaming, its share in net hydel profits, scrapping the controversial Kalabagh Dam project and maximum provincial autonomy.
The unity in the provincial assembly and among all political parties is reflected in better provision of opportunities for the people of the province. “We still believe that unity among all political parties on common agenda points can pay dividends and improve the living standards of the people of this deprived province, particularly in the context of loadshedding,” said Malik Ghulam Mustafa, provincial spokesman for the Awami National Party (ANP).
To discuss the energy crisis and develop consensus on the worst-ever power outages being faced by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ANP has called an All Parties Conference (APC) on August 9 to convey a strong message of unity to the powers that be.
However, none of the important political party in the province with representation in the provincial assembly except ANP’s ally and junior coalition partner, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has agreed to attend the APC. “The political parties that have agreed to attend APC have no significant say in parliamentary politics of the province. Their presence would certainly increase the number of parties attending the conference but surely not the substance,” said an analyst.
Leaders of opposition parties are arguing that for the last four and a half years the ANP virtually acted as the B-team of the PPP and stood firm with it on all issues, including the judiciary-government tussle, provincial rights and load management and supported President Asif Ali Zardari to face the threats posed to the presidency by different centres of power.
PPP-Sherpao provincial president Sikandar Sherpao said the ANP always supported and appreciated the steps taken by the federal government. “One can check the record of speeches delivered by ANP leaders during 2012-13 budget session where they were showering the federal government with praise and offering it all-out support,” he recalled.
Sherpao termed the APC a gimmick by ANP as it knew about it knew about its public standing due to poor governance over the last four and a half years. Critics believe the ANP made a kneejerk response to public anger and outrage due to the nerve-racking and economy-shattering loadshedding in the scorching summer heat and the holy month of Ramazan.
The demonstration of public anger was visible against the government on the roads. Offices of the ruling coalition, particularly the ANP, were attacked and burnt and posters of their leaders were torn apart by angry protesters. The critical as well as satirical and funny Short Messaging Service (SMS) regarding the provincial government, particularly the ANP, are being widely circulated to embarrass party workers.
Observers believe the ANP can ill-afford such a reaction from the masses, particularly when general election is approaching. The ANP invited all the political parties but the major forces in the opposition including PML-N, JUI-F, Jamaat-e-Islami and PPP-Sherpao refused to attend the APC. These parties were unanimous in saying that it is too little, too late.
There is no second opinion that a strong and united stand is needed to address the unfair power outages in the province despite generating more than it consumes. It is time to rise above political divide but real politics has its own dimensions and demands.
From the opposition’s point of view, it is difficult to go with a political party that has been in power for quite sometime without raising its voice on this issue and now crying foul to obtain political advantage. “It is an election gimmick and nothing else,” said an observer.