It was impossible to imagine, let alone implement, the kind of policies that are in place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today” – Atif Khan
Atif Khan is the Minister with two important portfolios – Education and Energy – in the government of PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We met up with him to gauge for ourselves what is happening in that province which can be considered different in comparison to the rest. It is important, after 16 months, to be able to assess the governance of a party that had made the loudest promises of reforming the system.
Urbane, suave and young, Atif embodies the new breed of politicians who have been persuaded to come in to this field only because of the change that was promised by PTI. Atif disclosed that the work they are doing is taking longer to show, as opposed to the highly visible optics of constructing roads and bridges, because the priorities of the KPK government were different. The KPK government is focusing on the dual tasks of providing citizens with improved and tedium-free civic facilities on the one hand and making the government machinery totally accountable for all its actions, on the other. Its efforts to root out corruption have begun to be vouched for and a province that has long suffered because of being torn asunder by war and conflict, is proudly leading the policy changes in Pakistan. We spoke about several areas of the government’s performance since it took over.
Police Reforms: There is a marked difference in KPK’s police force, compared to the past. This is due to zero political interference and involvement in the selection, recruitment and promotion of officers and personnel in the police. “Visit any police station in KPK and try bribing a police officer” Atif Khan challenged. The cumbersome process of registering an FIR has been simplified to an extent that it can be registered online too. There is also a complaint management system in place where any complaint can be sent through an SMS. A response to the grievance is compulsory and is monitored. The use of modern technology has definitely streamlined procedures and ought to be copied by other provinces too, in our opinion, where people still have to wait for months at a time just to register complaints and without the assurance of justice, even after that.
RTI: The PTI has introduced the Right to Information (RTI Act 2013) which entitles a common citizen to any or all information from public bodies. The RTI Act 2013 is so thorough that it is lauded as the third best application of the RTI globally. Through this Act, citizens can hold public officials accountable for their actions. If the sought information is not given within the stipulated time frame, the responsible government functionary risks having to pay a hefty fine. Atif Khan told us about a recent example of the use of RTI when a citizen invoked his right and wanted to know the annual budget allocated for the KPK Chief Minister’s house, which was shared with him.
RTS: The Right to Services Act 2014 has brought about huge conveniences for the people of the province too. Facilitation Centers are being set-up all over KPK to provide one-window solutions for any and all civil services. The transfer of property, which has always been the lengthiest and the most difficult thing to get done in this country, has been made unbelievably simple in KPK.
Education: “The lowest rate of out of school children in Pakistan is in KPK” Atif told us. The first thing they did after coming in to government is to turn the medium of instruction in government schools in to English, starting with one class at a time from the lowest level. This was done to stop the discrimination that is there in opportunities for students of private and public schools.
The budget for education in KPK is the highest in the country. It is 28% of the total budget of the province. A recently implemented monitoring system that uses GPS technology to track and report activities of the field monitoring staff has solved the problem of the issue of teacher absenteeism to a great deal. The teachers are also being given training and hundreds of new schools are being established as well. The percentage of schools for girls is 7o%, proving the importance that PTI attaches to educating the girl child. The incentives for good performance for both the teachers and students are in the form of recognition and acknowledgement as well as monetary rewards.
Energy: Atif Khan said that while electricity tariffs have increased several-fold since 1992, the federal government refuses to revise the Net Hydel Profit earned by the province. The PTI government has registered a case against the federal government about this issue and, if it wins, it will get an adjustment to the tune of PKR 36 billion versus the current, incorrectly calculated figure of PKR 6 billion only. Atif Khan told us that the actual production of electricity by KPK is over 4000 MW, of which only 1600 MW is actually provided to the province from the national grid to meet its requirement of 2500 MW.
“The federal government is promoting coal-based power generation despite its higher cost as well as the disastrous impact for environment” stated Atif. He said that hydel power was cheaper, cleaner and easier to replicate due to the number of tributaries in the province. He revealed that over 356 hydel power plants were being planned for KPK, specifically for communities that are not connected to the national grid along with 6000 stand-alone solar units for renewable energy. “The rate of return on hydel power projects, ironically, has been capped at 21% by the federal government” says Atif.
The task of reviving Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is comparable to a phoenix rising from the ashes, given its recent, harsh circumstances. Its people are brave and upright and voted en bloc for change which, slowly but surely, is beginning to impact their lives. There is still a long way to go but, at least, the initiatives are in place. Not just in the areas mentioned but also in Health, Environment and Tourism. KPK leads the change in Pakistan and proves that sincerity of effort is the key for the cry of ‘Tabdeeli’.