Imran Khan: Hope Meets Reality (Page 2 of 2)

Observers had all but run out of adjectives to decry the shocking state of education in KPK, but the PTI has achieved the impossible by walking back the little progress that had been made over the past several years. The liberal Awami National Party that ran KPK during the previous administration responded to criticism that KPK school textbooks were spreading intolerance and violence with curriculum reform. Under the sway of the Jamaat­-e-Islami, Khan’s party decided to revert back to the pre-­2006 textbook reform scheme, compelling Bushra Gohar, former ANP parliamentarian, to comment that the government in KPK is looking to “radicalize the society by imposing on it a Salafi Jihadist narrative through the education system.”

A central message of Imran Khan’s campaign was that he would bring peace to the area by reconciling disputes with members of the Taliban through a negotiated settlement. Through a painstaking public relations campaign waged inside Pakistan, Khan managed to single-handedly thread the needle that restored the image of the Pakistani Taliban as a group that is united in its commitment to negotiating with the government. Yet after several attempts at convincing the Taliban to bury the hatchet while at the negotiating table, the daily spate of violence across Pakistan at its hands continues unabated, chipping away at the appeal of the peace process that Khan so passionately helped construct. In his most recent efforts, Khan is seeking to hold NATO supply routes hostage after Hakimullah Mehsud’s death in a drone strike, hoping that this political cudgel will coerce the United States to end its drone program.

To be fair, with every change in direction, some positives follow. After forming government, PTI sought to increase health care funding to the region by 40 percent, with the hope of upgrading defunct medical facilities, opening new hospitals, and bringing in newer technology to help treat the infirm with proper care. In addition, the introduction of Mobile Courts to the region by the provincial government has helped solve many small legal cases that had been pending for years. In an area where disputes are often decided by men without proper legal training through tribal Jirgas, this is a positive development that should bring ease to many families.

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Imran Khan helped open the iron gates of hereditary politics last spring, bringing a fresher look to Pakistan politics. But Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is now approaching 200 days of PTI­-led rule, 
and little seems to have changed. The region today resembles the Bermuda Triangle, where any matter other than a peace initiative with the Taliban is likely to vanish. Reading the tea-­leaves in KPK is hard, but without something more than this tunnel vision, the province is doomed to continue to face the brunt of insurgent violence, lagging growth and an increasingly palpable sense of insecurity.

Hamza Mannan is a freelance writer. His work has appeared in The Express Tribune, Asia Times Online, and The International News.

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