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September 30, 2014

Razed nor made library, KP CM House belies Imran’s rhetoric

World

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September 30, 2014

PESHAWAR: A police official pokes his nose into the front window of every vehicle at a checkpoint. Turning left from the Khyber Road is not allowed to everyone. If let in, this short two-lane road is not without hurdles, more checkpoints. The dead-end is walled, and the right-hand fork is barricaded by impervious army soldiers.
This road is so heavily guarded because in-between the entrance and dead-end is the official residence of the chief minister, the Chief Minister House. PTI chief Imran Khan wanted this plush building razed or converted into a library. Neither it was razed nor its status changed in 16-month rule of the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It’s standing as majestically as in the past.
What’s the latest from the PTI government is that it will never demolish Chief Minister’s House or vacate it, according to Information Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani. “We have no intention to raze the Chief Minister’s House or convert it into a library,” he said unambiguously while shuffling in a room inside the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, the building that hugs the Chief Minister’s House.
As this official residence is not open to outsiders, the adjacent Chief Minister’s Secretariat’s green gate will also not slide to open for all and sundry. One has to convince officials at the gate to get in, no casual entry. Outside this sprawling building, police officials crouching behind machine guns suspiciously stare at everyone from roofed bunkers, the scenes witnessed in previous tenures.
In the first few weeks, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak lived in his bungalow in the posh Hayatabad. The party ostensibly intended to act upon its election promise of converting the Chief Minister’s House into a library. But Imran Khan allowed Pervez Khattak to shift to his official residence, citing security worries. That concern about the chief minister’s security was genuine in view of terrorism but his promise to bulldoze chief minister and

governor’s houses is impracticable.
“These are imaginary ideas,” said Ijaz Khan, a professor at the International Relations Department of the University of Peshawar. “Chief minister cannot live without an official residence or in a small one. Residence for a prime minister, governor or chief Minister is the need, not only in Pakistan but also across the world,” he argued.
Failure in KP did not make PTI chief realise that he will struggle honouring this promise. Imran Khan continues to promise bulldozing governor’s houses and chief minister’s houses after coming into power, with the latest promise coming in September 28 rally in Lahore.
From the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Mushtaq Ghani gestured to the opposite complex of Governor’s House, saying that had to go first. Without Governor’s House, the minister said in gentle voice, the Chief Minister’s House would not be vacated. Leaving Governor’s House intact, he added, and transforming the Chief Minister’s House into a library would not serve the purpose.
But he contradicted himself by saying that Pervez Khattak was not residing in the Chief Minister’s House. “He’s living in the annexe,” he claimed.
In fact, the information minister fine-tuned Imran Khan’s promise. “In KP only, we will not do it. Once we come into power in the Centre, the governor and chief minister’s houses will be used for other purposes,” he said in comment that sounded like an excuse.
The PTI’s government in KP has been the subject of criticism for its alleged failure to honour the promises it had made with people during the election campaign in 2013.
It’s being seen as an incapable and unprepared party with an ambitious agenda. “It has neither conceptual clarity nor any plan to implement its agenda, besides direly lacking competent and seasoned people. That’s causing piling up of the problems in the province,” Ijaz Khan said.
Critics often taunt PTI for failing to hold the local bodies elections, not in its promised three-month time but even in 16 months. Health and education, the two priority sectors of PTI, did not show signs of improvement, detractors say. Peshawar was called world’s largest polio reservoir by the World Health Organisation, but the government’s response did not match the level of threat. In education, there are mounting problems but response has been inadequate, if not missing.
“It even failed to manage the foreign-funded programmes in health and education,” Ijaz Khan said of PTI government.
Opposition parties criticize it for its alleged failure to kick off development in the province. Last year’s development allocation of Rs83 billion, according to the opposition, went unspent. The first quarter of this year hardly saw development activities. And above all, stories of nepotism are surfacing.