From one crisis to the other

Indiscipline in the ranks of the party, the tussle between different cadres of civil servants and issues of governance mark the PTI’s more than three years in power

From one crisis to the other

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has been facing one crisis after another due to the indiscipline in the ranks of the party, the tussle between different cadres of civil servants and the issues of governance.

In more than three years in power, the PTI, led by Imran Khan, and its allies have somehow managed to tide over their differences to maintain majority in the provincial assembly, but every such episode has exposed their shortcomings and left a bad taste in the mouth.

A lot of time is spent appeasing dissidents, mostly belonging to the PTI, and wasting energy and resources that could be put to better use by doing something useful. Running a coalition government is a difficult balancing act as the PTI has realised, but the party has probably suffered more from its internal divisions. Such is the level of indiscipline and grouping in the PTI that some of its lawmakers abused each other during assembly sessions and almost came to blows.

The return of the Aftab Sherpao-led Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) into the coalition government some months ago --  after expulsion of two of its ministers on corruption charges by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Imran Khan’s direction in 2013 -- damaged the reputation of both QWP and PTI. It was a triumph of political ground realities over principles. In fact, one of the QWP ministers, Bakht Baidar Khan, who was sacked, is still pursuing a petition against Imran Khan in the court for maligning him without evidence. This shows that the PTI-QWP alliance is opportunistic and designed for temporary gains.

The QWP and PTI’s other partner, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), often pursue different policies than those of the PTI in the centre and in other provinces. Their alliance is confined to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and has limited objectives. This is evidence enough that the three parties got together in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to rule as part of a makeshift coalition government and not due to any meeting of minds or ideology.

It is now common to see ‘pressure group’ of MNAs and MPAs emerging in the PTI to highlight their grievances and demands. Some are critical of ministers, others are unhappy with the chief minister. A common demand is allocation of development funds for their constituencies. An oft-heard complaint is that a big chunk of the funds are allocated to Chief Minister Khattak’s home district Nowshera, KP Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser’s Swabi, Education Minister Mohammad Atef Khan’s native Mardan and the Lower Dir district to which JI head Sirajul Haq and his party colleague, Finance Minister Muzaffar Sayyid, belong.

With only two years left in its five-year term, the PTI will have to do a lot better to make up for its lacklustre performance until now.

Such allegations aren’t unheard of, in recent years almost all chief ministers, including Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s Akram Durrani belonging to Bannu and Awami National Party’s Ameer Haider Durrani hailing from Mardan, diverted bulk of the development funds to their native districts. The electorate expected judicious distribution of funds from the PTI due to its slogans of ‘justice’ and ‘change’ but its government has fared no better than the previous ruling parties.

As if the wrangling between the politicians wasn’t enough, the bureaucrats posted in KP also organised themselves on the basis of their administrative cadre and began campaigning against each other. The Provincial Civil Service (PCS) and the Provincial Management Service (PMS) joined hands against the vastly powerful Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), formerly known as District Management Group, and held pen-down strike and then a sit-in in May at the Civil Secretariat, Peshawar to demand a greater share in postings and an end to inquiries against them.

More than 600 PCS and PMS cadres demanded the removal of Chief Secretary Amjad Ali Khan, who is a PAS officer, and maintained that the posting of PAS officers in the province was illegal. This was the first time so many civil servants went on strike and staged a sit-in outside the chief secretary’s office. The bewildered provincial government watched helplessly as this strange spectacle unfolded. It finally formed a committee of ministers to negotiate with the striking bureaucrats, but the issue remains unresolved.

Another pending issue concerns the provincial government-owned Bank of Khyber. Another ministerial committee was tasked to probe the tug of war between the bank’s managing director Shamsul Qayyum and Finance Minister Muzaffar Sayyid. The two levelled allegations against each other, though the bank’s head did something unusual and provocative by publishing an advertisement accusing the minister of interfering in Bank of Khyber’s affairs, pressuring the management with illegal recruitments, profiting from inductions and using bank resources to arrange political functions.

As the minister belongs to the JI, it took umbrage over the allegations at a time when it was launching a countrywide campaign against corruption and demanded the managing director’s removal. The ministers’ committee absolved the minister of all charges and took the bank’s head to task for levelling baseless allegations against him, but the government has yet to present the inquiry report to the provincial assembly despite promising to do so. It has also been unable to take action against the bank’s influential head.

In February 2016, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission Director General Lt Gen (R) Hamid Khan resigned when the provincial government diluted his powers by introducing amendments in the Ehtesab Commission Act 2014. In his resignation letter, he wrote that the amendments had made the post of director general redundant and rendered the accountability process controversial and questionable. Since his resignation, the Ehtesab Commission has become almost paralysed as the process to appoint his successor is taking time and the controversial amendments to the act are yet to be put into practice. Imran Khan’s promise of accountability isn’t making headway after a promising start.

The latest crisis to hit the provincial government concerns the Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (Pedo), which was set up to exploit the considerable hydropower potential of the province. Shakil Durrani, the chairman of the Pedo board of directors who previously headed Wapda, resigned after holding the honorary position for only six months and concluded that the organisation was suffering from incompetence, lack of effective systems and a dysfunctional organisational structure.

He accused the Minister of Energy and Power Mohammad Atif Khan and Pedo Chief Executive Officer Akbar Ayub of retaining arbitrary control of the organisation and blocking inquiries into the payment of an additional Rs700 million to the contractor of the Ranolia power project and the failure to build transmission lines to the Ranolia and Machai projects causing loss of Rs40 million per month to the KP government.  He also raised questions about the CEO’s suitability for the job and the high salary on which he was hired along with several other officers brought in from the private sector. Besides, he noted that Pedo failed to complete even one hydropower project in three years,

Stunned by the allegation, the provincial government hit back through Energy and Power Minister Atif Khan and Pedo CEO Akbar Ayub, and offered inquiry into the charges. They accused Shakil Durrani of blocking efforts to turn Pedo into a dynamic corporate entity, because he had worked in the public sector throughout his career, and creating hurdles in the implementation of the government’s micro hydel-power projects -- that was primarily a social uplift programme for marginalised rural communities in remote areas.

The provincial government maintained that the public sector lacked the capacity to fund $12 billion required for the proposed hydropower projects and this was the reason Pedo took the initiative to involve the private sector and for the first time in KP’s history managed to attract 56 proposals for pre-qualification to invest in seven hydropower projects costing $2 billion with total capacity of 668 megawatt of electricity.

The jury is still out regarding the merits of the case against Pedo. It remains to be seen if an inquiry into its affairs would be held or whether Pedo would be able to accomplish its targets.

The PTI government is under pressure to deliver on its promises, but it is being held back by a host of reasons. The PTI was supposed to do well in KP, the only province where it is in power, in order to be able to attract voters in the other three provinces in the 2018 general election. With only two years left in its five-year term, the PTI will have to do a lot better to make up for its lacklustre performance until now.

From one crisis to the other