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Role of KPK in new leadership dynamics

Pakistan is embarking on a new chapter in its history, following the February 8, 2024 elections, with almost all political parties, except Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)—PMLN—voicing concerns about electoral transparency. Notwithstanding these reservations, political parties securing clear mandates, excluding PMLN in National Assembly, have formed governments in the centre and provinces, either singularly or with the support of coalition partners.

Notably, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has commenced its fourth consecutive term in the province of Sindh, while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) its third consecutive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK. In an astounding development, Maryam Nawaz (though allegations are that she did not get winning votes) has assumed the charge of Chief Minister in Punjab, becoming the first woman to hold this office and fourth person from the Sharif family to govern the most populous province of the country. Similarly, Sarfaraz Ahmad Bugti has taken oath of Chief Minister of Baluchistan. These transitions mark notable development in Pakistan’s political landscape, signaling a continuation of political party dominance in certain regions while also ushering in new leadership dynamics.

Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan enjoy an advantageous position compared to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as their leadership has successfully formed coalition governments at the center, ensuring strong governmental support. However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister, Ali Amin Gandapur, might face a unique challenge due to absence of talks with main political rivals, PPP and PMLN, which could potentially create issues in governing the province effectively. In this situation, PTI needs effective leadership and strategic decision-making for overcoming potential challenges and fostering development and progress in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is a fact that following the groundbreaking 18th Constitutional Amendment, aimed at enhancing provincial autonomy through devolution of powers, there were high expectations that a positive competitive spirit would prevail among provinces leading to improvement in public services. After 18thAmendment, Article 167(4), has brought about a significant transformation in the fiscal aspects of the country, moving away from a predominantly centralized model towards one that prioritizes decentralization within the federation. This paradigm shift has not only strengthened the framework of governance at the domestic level but has also empowered provincial administrations with greater autonomy. The amendment has led to a reconfiguration of power dynamics, facilitating a more balanced distribution of resources and responsibilities across provinces.

Despite criticism surrounding the 18th Amendment, it remains undeniable that provinces now possess significant autonomy in governing their respective regions without undue interference from the central government. Consequently, provinces are empowered to allocate resources and spearhead key development projects tailored to their specific requirements. This newfound autonomy, however, also entails heightened responsibilities, as the momentum towards decentralization prompts discussions and debates regarding provinces’ capacity and direction in identifying sustainable sources of financial revenue.

With greater control over their affairs, provinces are tasked with navigating the complexities of fiscal management while simultaneously seeking innovative solutions to ensure long-term financial stability and growth. However, in line with central government, provinces have increasingly turned to borrowing funds to meet growing demands of financing public infrastructure initiatives.

There is a pressing need for provinces to reevaluate selection and prioritisation of projects as they face failure to enhance public governance models. Reliance on borrowing highlights challenges that provinces face in balancing fiscal needs with sustainable financial practices. Therefore, a critical reexamination of project selection processes is imperative to ensure efficient allocation of resources and improved governance outcomes at their level.

Unlike other provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa faces potential isolation in governance from the center due to the stringent policies of PTI-led provincial government. This was evident during the prime minister’s oath-taking ceremony, which was boycotted by the Chief Minister, highlighting tensions between the provincial and federal administrations. It has the potential to affect decision-making processes and overall governance in the province. Such developments emphasize the importance of fostering collaboration and dialogue to address issues and ensure effective governance.

Continuous discord between the provincial and federal governments could exacerbate the challenges faced by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, considering the province’s significant debt burden. Governed by PTI for the past decade, debts have surged substantially. As of June 30, 2023, the province’s total debtliability reached Rs. 530.7 billion, marking a notable 46.55% increase compared to the previous year’s Rs. 359.3 billion. This escalating debt poses serious concern for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s financial stability and underscores the urgent need for cohesive governance and prudent fiscal management strategies to alleviate the burden on its people. Addressing this challenge requires collaborative efforts between the provincial and federal authorities to devise sustainable solutions for managing debt and ensuring well-being of its populace.

According to the UNDP’s 2020 report on Pakistan’s National Human Development, the province’s per capita income lags nearly 21.3 percent behind the national average as of 2017-18. This disparity emphasizes the need for targeted interventions to address economic inequalities and enhance opportunities for growth and development in the province. Closing this gap requires concerted efforts aimed at fostering inclusive economic policies and equitable distribution of resources.

Pakistan has a significant proportion of young people, presenting a substantial opportunity to drive both economic growth and human development. However, realizing this potential hinges on strategic resource allocation, as highlighted in the United Nation report, which assigns Pakistan a national Youth Development Index (YDI) of 0.605. At the provincial level, Sindh leads with a YDI of 0.63, closely followed by Punjab at 0.62, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa trails with 0.572.

The report attributes Punjab’s better performance relative to the national average in the Youth Development Index to its commendable achievements in education indicators, whereas Sindh’s success is largely attributed to its higher youth employment rates. On the contrary, underperformance of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is primarily linked to its lower rates of youth employment. These findings indicate the importance of targeted interventions to enhance education and employment opportunities, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with lower youth development indices, to harness the full potential of Pakistan’s youthful demographic dividend.

Similarly, while evaluation of Child Development and Inequality (CDI), various factors including Standard of Living, Education, and Health & Nutrition are considered. Pakistan’s national CDI score has shown improvement, rising from 0.397 in 2001-02 to 0.575 in 2018-19. In this key domain, Punjab emerges as forerunner with the highest CDI value of 0.655, surpassing national average of 0.575, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan with scores of 0.53, 0.51 and 0.34, respectively.

In terms of labour development, assessed across five dimensions including employment-to-population ratio, labour force share, skill premium, human capital, and incidence of decent work, Sindh leads with the highest Labour Development Index (LDI) value of 0.478, surpassing the national average of 0.44. Punjab closely follows with a score of 0.43, trailed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 0.42, and Balochistan at 0.40. Between 2012 and 2018, all provinces showed improvement in their LDI, with Punjab experiencing the highest increase at 7.2%, followed by Balochistan at 6.9%, Sindh at 6.6%, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the lowest increase of 4.9%.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, authorities must prioritise governance and improve financial discipline to address provincial issues effectively. Despite securing the most seats in recent elections, maintaining this momentum hinges on their performance. The political landscape at the center has shifted with PTI facing new power dynamics involving Asif Ali Zardari and Shehbaz Sharif, who now have institutional support. PTI’s way forward requires demonstrating tangible progress and navigating legal challenges adeptly. Prolonged aggression without tangible results risks diminishing their current popularity. The establishment’s support may differ from past experiences, necessitating a nuanced approach to governance and leadership.

Huzaima Bukhari, Dr Ikramul Haq and Abdul Rauf Shakoori, "Role of KPK in new leadership dynamics," Business recorder. 2024-03-08.
Keywords: Political science , Political leadership , Political parties , Political landscape , Provincial issues , National Assembly , Ali Amin Gandapur , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , PML-N , PPP , PTI , CDI

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