Get your pri­or­i­ties right!

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ali Ashraf Khan Email: balti1551@ gmail. com

Anew joke has been re­leased by our Prime Min­is­ter in his on­go­ing hour of trial and tribu­la­tion. Nawaz Sharif has an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of an international air­port in Bannu, along­side other de­vel­op­ment projects in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa. With a tra­di­tional lo­cal turban on his head, he an­nounced “We will build an international air­port in Bannu.” This is the story of our ‘ Naya Pak­istan’ the Prime Min­is­ter pro­claimed.

Why we term it a joke with the peo­ple of KPK is that we still re­mem­ber the last time when it was Nawaz Sharif’s men­tor Pres­i­dent Zi­aul Haq who also had come to ad­dress a pub­lic gath­er­ing where he per­formed the ground break­ing of Chashma Right Bank Canal project promis­ing so­cio- eco­nomic revo­lu­tion for the peo­ple of this area but in fact it was to ben­e­fit the hold­ers of bar­ren lands by priv­i­leged peo­ple of this area, where sur­pris­ingly a cer­e­mony of birth­day cake cut­ting was ar­ranged. Pres­i­dent Zi­aul Haq was per­form­ing cake cut­ting on the oc­ca­sion of two real broth­ers Gen. Fazal- e- Haq, then Gov­er­nor NWFP, and Gen. Fazal- e- Raziq, then Chair­man WAPDA. And we just have to look at the peo­ple of KPK to­day in or­der to see what the re­sult of all the prom­ises was.

The other prob­lem is that there is no air­port worth the name in the cap­i­tal of Pak­istan but in­stead of fi­nal­iz­ing the one that is un­der con­struc­tion for the last two decades our wise head of gov­ern­ment de­cided that this was not a prob­lem, we need an air­port in Bannu much more ur­gently. Who will fly to and from Bannu apart from the Pash­tun work­ers that are com­ing­going from the Mid­dle East? The num­ber of those will any­way re­duce might be be­cause of the new and pos­toil pol­icy of Saudi Ara­bia and oth­ers. The Pash­tun politi­cians any­way live in Islamabad which is only three hours drive away and won’t use the Bannu air­port. And who will take care of the se­cu­rity of this air­port that would be sit­u­ated in the tribal area?

Even if the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is im­proved, Bannu has been in the past, a tar­get of Tal­iban at­tacks in 2007, 2008 and 2012. We re­mem­ber the at­tack on Pesh­war air­port a cou­ple of years ago. Has our rulers cared to take the na­tion in con­fi­dence over the fa­mous jail break­ing in Bannu in 2011, when around 400 dan­ger­ous pris­on­ers es­caped and the jail au­thor­i­ties or Pro­vin­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion was not given ex­em­plary pu­n­ish­ment to stop such like in­ci­dents in fu­ture. The US proxy war in Afghanistan has de­stroyed the so­cio- eco­nomic in­fras­truc­ture of Pak­istan. No ruler in Pak­istan has shown strength to talk to the for­eign per­pe­tra­tors of this war and peace game that has dam­aged the na­tional fab­ric of our coun­try, un­less our rulers take bold step on this is­sue of peace, se­cu­rity, progress and pros­per­ity will re­main a dream.

There is no doubt that Bannu as a city, and as a dis­trict, needs at­ten­tion of the Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment of KPK. What the Fed­eral gov­ern­ment of Nawaz Sharif can do is give them guid­ance and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to de­velop the ba­sic in­fras­truc­ture to re­move these de­fi­cien­cies. Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif said “When I come to Bannu, I see old roads, old build­ings, old schools, old hospi­tals.” That is surely right. But then, build a new hos­pi­tal or road or even bet­ter – give Bannu ac­cess to the western route of CPEC! But an air­port is ridicu­lous and just an­other ex­am­ple of wrong pri­or­i­ties of this gov­ern­ment in fool­ing the peo­ple.

There is a dire need to im­prove the liv­ing con­di­tions of the peo­ple, pro­vide them clean drink­ing wa­ter at the vil­lage and ev­ery Kaly, rid the peo­ple of Bannu of the en­ergy cri­sis who are fac­ing upto 20 hours daily load- shed­ding, ba­sic health fa­cil­i­ties are miss­ing, cot­tage in­dus­try has not been de­vel­oped through an or­gan­ised gov­ern­ment sec­tor’s par­tic­i­pa­tion – and in the first case of the poor peo­ple of this coun­try. Those who can af­ford to fly can fly from Pe­shawar or Islamabad. Do some­thing to check ris­ing food prices, pro­vide free clean drink­ing wa­ter to the peo­ple who can­not af­ford to buy bot­tled wa­ter. Im­prove the sit­u­a­tion of agri­cul­ture, of the land­less and small peas­ants, of the bonded labour. Or fi­nally solve the prob­lem of how to in­te­grate the tribal ar­eas and the mil­lions of peo­ple liv­ing there and who are dis­placed right now.

Re­or­gan­ise the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Fata ( and Bannu is part of it) by giv­ing the power to the lo­cal tribal peo­ple in­stead of po­lit­i­cal agents. For years and years suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have been dilly- dal­ly­ing on the FATA prob­lem, now fi­nally act! Make FATA a Province and give them a de­vel­op­ment pack­age. Give FATA ac­cess to CPEC on pri­or­ity ba­sis if the PML ( N) gov­ern­ment is at all truly com­mit­ted to the bet­ter­ment of the down­trod­den liv­ing in mis­eries since long, for no fault of their own. Cre­ate jobs for the peo­ple so they don’t have to go to Daesh for money.

There are a thou­sand ways to help FATA and Bannu but an air­port is surely not among those. One thing was no­ticed by think­ing minds that the Chief Min­is­ter, KPK was not present on this oc­ca­sion, who is the elected Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of KPK. That fact is show­ing the real pur­pose of the Prime Min­is­ter’s visit to Bannu and the high prom­ises: he is on an elec­tion tour try­ing to outdo the sit­ting gov­ern­ment of PTI in KPK. This is an­other un­for­tu­nate fea­ture of our politi­cians. They are un­able to co­op­er­ate and to keep the greater good of Pak­istan in mind and put it above their petty party pol­i­tics. Each party that won an elec­tion will first dis­con­tinue all de­vel­op­ment projects that the pre­vi­ous rul­ing party had ini­ti­ated be­cause if fin­ished the glory would fall on the ri­val party. How much money and ef­fort is wasted this way!

Nawaz Sharif did not need the Chief Min­is­ter KPK in Bannu be­cause the whole thing was a pro­pa­ganda per­for­mance to dis­tract pub­lic at­ten­tion from op­po­si­tion pres­sure to ini­ti­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tions to dig out trail of fund­ing off- shore com­pa­nies ex­posed in Panama pa­pers, with the view to muster pub­lic sup­port for the mid- term elec­tions in case he is forced to take such a step. Most of the things that are needed can be achieved only when Fed­eral and Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments work to­gether for the best in­ter­est of peo­ple. But that has never been in the mind of our politi­cians par­tic­u­larly when they are in power. In­stead of wast­ing na­tional time on do­mes­tic war­fare with the op­po­si­tion and for all his shiny projects, the gov­ern­ment should con­cen­trate on re­duc­ing the bor­row­ing from the IMF which will lead to more in­debt­ed­ness and the fi­nan­cial col­lapse of Pak­istan. God bless Pak­istan & hu­man­ity. — The writer is a se­nior columnist based in Karachi.

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