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Tuesday June 25, 2024

Break the pattern

It’s back to centre vs KP – or at least that’s how Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur sees it

By Editorial Board
May 20, 2024
In this photo, the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Gandapur addresses the provincial assembly on March 2, 2024. — Facebook/Ali Amin Khan Gandapur
In this photo, the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Gandapur addresses the provincial assembly on March 2, 2024. — Facebook/Ali Amin Khan Gandapur

It’s back to centre vs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – or at least that’s the way Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur sees it. One speech after the other seems to be aimed at provoking the federal government. First he said he would storm Islamabad, then decided to give a 15-day deadline to the centre for holding talks to find a solution to the province’s core issues related to payment of dues and power outages, then he threatened to take over Pesco offices, then he said KP Governor Faisal Karim Kundi couldn’t stay at the KP House in Islamabad, and then he said he would take over the Governor House if governor rule were imposed. One truly wonders what this is even meant to fix. Or is the point just to flex some muscle and then continue with politics? While Kundi did give some provocative responses to Gandapur’s warnings, he also invited Gandapur to lunch, saying he would like to talk to all political parties to strengthen democracy. President Asif Ali Zardari has also ruled out the possibility of governor rule in KP. Will Kundi’s olive branch and President Zardari’s statement help bring the political temperature down in KP? Ideally, it should. However, some believe Gandapur will not stop his war of words with the centre because of the PTI’s political rhetoric – as in: it suits the party to continue its narrative of being on the other side of whatever the government is doing. And, while PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah may be right in saying that this is just hot air, this charged atmosphere really does not help either the KP government or the federal government.

The 18th Amendment was hailed for bringing the tensions between the centre and provinces down, giving provincial autonomy to all provinces, small or large. Provinces now get a lot of resources and revenue. Unfortunately, they have done little to nothing to generate revenue on their own. It should be the responsibility of the provinces to collect taxes and raise revenue. Provinces should be able to raise enough taxes if they start taxing the agriculture sector, the real-estate sector and the retailers along with other industries. They must play their part in revenue generation because when they don’t do this and only collect revenue from the NFC Award and empower themselves through the 18th Amendment without taking on any financial responsibility, then questions will also be raised about their capacity.

On the other hand, if any provincial government still has grievances with the centre, they must by all means bring it to the table but in a mature way. We have seen how the Sindh government does not agree with the centre on many issues but there is a way to air your grievances. One can do it without resorting to threats of taking over buildings, banning central government officials etc. It is unfortunate to see such open acrimony among federating units. This has to end. It is important to break this pattern of confrontation. Provinces should work with the federal government to help their own people. The people of Pakistan need relief; they don’t need a bickering provincial and federal government. It is in the national interest to ensure that the centre-province relationship is strengthened through mutual respect, cooperation, and a genuine commitment to addressing people’s unique challenges. By doing so, Pakistan can move towards a more equitable and united federation, where all provinces feel valued and supported in their quest for development and prosperity while also trying to maintain the civility and cooperation required to be a federating unit.