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August 15, 2016

PTI chief, KP chief minister differ on refugees, accountability

August 15, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s stand on indefinite stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan runs counter to the aggressive line taken by Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak against them.

Besides, there are at least four other key areas where Imran Khan and Khattak have held clashing views. But still the PTI chief continues to fully support the chief minister and vice versa. When recently Khattak faced a rebellion, Imran Khan completely backed him.

They have differences on allocation of development funds to the members of the KP Assembly, accountability in KP and the laws relating to right to information and conflict of interest.

Three days back, Imran Khan met elders of Afghan refugees accompanied by Rustum Shah Mohmand and said he has asked Khattak to meet them too. “International conventions make clear that States cannot simply force refugees to return. We must realize no one leaves his home voluntarily. We have extended hospitality to the Afghan refugees for three decades. Their harassment over the last three months must stop immediately,” he said.

On the other hand, Khattak recently termed Afghan refugees a big problem and said that KP could not afford their presence anymore. “Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan should prepare a strategy for repatriation of the registered and non-registered Afghan refugees. Now the refugees have to play their positive role for their own country.”

Khattak opined that the law and order problem in KP had been created mainly due to the presence of refugees. He said that he had met the Afghan ambassador and Federal Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch and discussed with them the process of refugees’ repatriation in an honourable way.

When Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP)   chief Mehmood Achakzai stated that KP belonged to Afghans and he would not allow anyone to harass Afghan refugees, Khattak took on him severely and said Achakzai remarks made Pakistanis hang their heads in shame. He asked the PkMAP chief if he could think of Pakistan without KP and dubbed his remarks as highly condemnable.

The chief minister and the PTI chief also held conflicting views on the accountability process in KP, making it a farce. When the PTI suffered a huge embarrassment due to the resignation of the KP accountability commission chief after the provincial government made the relevant law totally toothless, Imran Khan jumped in to do the damage-control. He made the provincial administration to withdraw the sweeping amendments and pass a relatively soft law unlike the original piece of legislation.

The third instance of serious divergence of opinion between Khattak and Imran Khan emerged when the KP assembly passed an ordinary conflict of interest law exempting the provincial legislators from its application. In contrast, Imran Khan has always stood for a law that is applicable to all and sundry without any exceptions.

As the chief minister wants to consolidate, eyeing the next general elections, he announced to allocate development funds to the KP lawmakers for their constituencies. However, when Imran Khan unfolded his comprehensive reforms agenda for KP, he scrapped the allotment of funds to the KP legislators.

Khattak’s preference is to keep his lawmakers in good humour so that he is able to repeat his performance in the next parliamentary polls. However, Imran Khan has rosy plans, which Khattak doesn’t fully buy. As a result, an unannounced but pronounced difference of opinion continues unabated.