Over the last three decades, voters in KP have tried almost all political parties and been disappointed
While political workers and supporters are gearing up for a fresh campaign for their parties and leaders ahead of the coming polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab, the common man is more interested in peace, justice, prosperity and assurance of basic rights. After the dissolution of the KP Assembly, elections are imminent. The situation in KP is slightly different from the rest of the country. The key demand of the people will be an improvement in the law and order situation and the availability of basic amenities, particularly food items, at rates they can afford.
For last several months now, many districts of the KP are under attack from the militants. Police and security personnel have been targeted daily. Well to do people have been receiving threatening calls from extortionists. Street crime is on the rise. On the other hand, the price of a 20-kilogram bag of flour has reached Rs 3,100. Subsidised flour is unavailable to the common man. The Peshawar High Court has taken notice of the unprecedented inflation and expressed its dissatisfaction with the relevant departments for their failure in providing relief to the public.
While the common man has been suffering, the political parties have been engaged in a political tug of war. Their priorities seem to be different from those of the ordinary people. Now, after the dissolution of the provincial assembly, they will once again have to return to the electorate to seek their votes.
For months there has been great political uncertainty. When Chief Minister Mahmud Khan sent the advice to Governor Haji Ghulam Ali on Tuesday to dissolve the assembly, the latter was quick to call a meeting of his advisors and sign the summary. Some of the opposition leaders celebrated the dissolution of the KP assembly through social media posts and called the day a “yaum-i-nijaat” (day of deliverance).
Meetings have now begun for the appointment of a caretaker set up in the province.
The PTI plan was to pressure the federal government through dissolution of the assemblies so that the latter should hold early general elections. But there are no signs that the ploy has worked. Preparations have begun only to hold by-polls in the two provinces to fill the vacant seats for the remaining months.
“Those wanting to add voters or request any corrections in the voters’ lists should do so before the announcement of the schedule for the by-elections to the vacant assembly seats,” said Sohail Ahmad, a spokesman for the Election Commission of Pakistan-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Unlike some other provinces, the voters in KP have tried almost all political parties over the last three decades and been mostly disappointed. From the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and the Awami National Party to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, all parties have ruled the province at least once since the early ‘90s. In the last decade, the province has been ruled by the PTI. The party formed its first provincial government in KP almost a decade ago. The performance of Parvez Khattak-led PTI government, from 2013 till 2018, was lauded by many after it introduced reforms in health, education and police departments. This made the PTI popular at the national level.
The second tenure of PTI government in KP, however, has not been impressive. Like its federal government, it failed to address key issues including unprecedented inflation and the deteriorating law and order situation. Its second tenure ended prematurely when the chief minister, on the directives of PTI chairman, sent a summary to the governor for the dissolution of the assembly and the cabinet.
Before signing the summary, a final meeting of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet was held. Several important decisions were taken on the last day, apparently to claim credit for those in the upcoming campaign. The chief minister claimed that his party will return to the assemblies with two-thirds majority and that Imran Khan will be elected pime minister for a second time. The PTI say Khan is still the most popular leader in the country. They say the youth will help him win again, this time with a bigger margin.
Khan proved his popularity in KP in the by-polls last year when he won four NA seats in Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda and Kurram. In the process, he defeated some political heavy weights including Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Aimal Wali Khan and Maulana Muhammad Qasim.
Interestingly, some PTI lawmakers are leaving PTI, either because they do not hope to get the party ticket again or because they believe that the party cannot win for a third time. One of the five MNAs from Peshawar, Nasir Musazai, quit PTI last Sunday to join Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. He had joined the PTI a couple of months before the 2018 general elections after leaving the PML-N.
The JUI made a strong come back in the local government elections in many districts of the KP about a year back. It won five of the seven tehsil councils in Peshawar, where PTI had won all the five seats of National Assembly and 11 out of 14 seats in the provincial assembly in the 2018 general election.
The LG system has yet to deliver. The mayors and tehsil chairmen complain that the provincial government has been creating hurdles in their work. None of the city or tehsil councils received funds last year.
Many people say that no political party is interested in solving their problems. They say that the politicians only want power for themselves.
“None of the politicians, whether in government or opposition, know anything about the suffering of millions of families; they know nothing about the difficulty of arranging meals twice a day due to high prices of flour and other essential items for the last couple of years. There has been unprecedented inflation and joblessness but no one is concerned,” says Khurshid Khan, a rickshaw driver. He also says street crime has increased.
The province is facing a worsening law and order situation. This time, it appears that the people will be willing to vote for those committed to addressing the key issues, particularly the restoration of peace and stabilisation of the economy.
The writer is a former president of Khyber Union of Journalists. He reports on conflict, political, social and human rights issues in KP. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @JavedAzizKhan