Verbalising grandiose ego trips is all par for the political course in this rapidly imploding country of ours. And as everyone is aware, the announcement of inspired ‘visions’ is best taken with the proverbial pinch of salt or, as in this case, greeted with gales of laughter such blatant ‘hogwash’ deserves.
According to the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pervez Khattak, the KP government intends establishing not just one, but two ‘mega-cities’ in the province: one close to Colonel Sher Khan Interchange on the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway, the M-1, and the second adjacent to Abbottabad; these ‘mega-cities’ are aimed at providing modern, affordable, residential facilities for the people of KP in line with the ‘vision’ of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
In addressing a recent meeting of the Provincial Housing Department, CM Khattak revealed that the M-1 mega-city is earmarked for construction on 45,000 kanals of land, will have an educational complex, medical complex, commercial zone, apartments, police station, mosques, petrol/CNG stations, electricity, sui gas, playgrounds, greenbelts and, among other provisions, a five-star hotel and a golf course, although who will benefit from the latter two in a province torn apart by terrorism and bloodshed on an almost daily basis was not - given the ‘visionary’ circumstances surrounding it - explained. The source of the currently estimated cost - Rs 45.8 billion - for this first mega-city, let’s call it ‘Imranabad 1’, is also a mystery as is the source of the requisite cash with which to acquire necessary land in Abbottabad for a repeat performance ultimately leading to the emergence of ‘Imranabad 2’.
‘Visions’ are all very well in their place, of course, and Imran Khan is just as entitled to have them as anyone else, but it would surely make more sense, something ‘Im-the-Dim’ appears to be inordinately short of, to give priority to issues such as bringing peace and tranquillity to the unfortunate province that has fallen into his egotistical hands?
It is also pertinent to wonder exactly what plans - or should that be ‘visions’? - Mr Khan has in mind for the thousands of displaced tribal people, driven from their ancestral lands and their livelihoods destroyed by the Taliban and army actions, who are currently enduring severe hardship in ‘temporary’ camps one of which is, unless the writer is mistaken, on the outskirts of the proposed ‘Imranabad 1’ - or, perhaps, these internal refugees are to be re-homed in the envisaged five-star hotel and taught how to play golf until their brand spanking new apartments are ready for occupation and then what?
True to say that there is a need for additional housing units in KP: units to replace those destroyed in the aforementioned Taliban-army actions, those destroyed by earthquake and by flooding and, this must not be overlooked, to house the ever-expanding population. That, by the way, also needs, on a desperately urgent basis, the reconstruction of hundreds of schools blown up by terrorist/Taliban bombs in recent years and without which - education being the only sustainable way towards peace and prosperity and the means to being able to earn a living - all else becomes, in the long-term, meaningless. Oh! But, of course, apologies for overlooking this fact, there is an absence of funding in the KP government kitty for essentials such as education and, whilst on the subject, for the provision of clean drinking water to all and so on ad infinitum.
The KP government would not - it certainly cannot - be the only ‘purse’ to pump money into the twin ‘Imranabads’ as, egos and visions aside, that highly questionable breed known collectively as ‘contractors’ must already be lined up at the starting gate, having invisibly ‘palmed’ money to that ever-present ‘someone’ for the privilege of - maybe, nod-nod, wink-wink - being in with a chance to rake off vast amounts of ‘profit’ for the inferior construction work they inevitably pass-off until it cracks or falls down and this is earthquake belt remember, as being absolutely pucca!
Surely, everything being given due consideration, it would make far more economic sense - and certainly be more feasible - to, after having returned the province to at least a semblance of peace as so repeatedly promised in conveniently discarded election manifestos, set about the task of improving the standard of life for each and every scattered village throughout KP, thus stemming the currently ceaseless rural-to-urban flow that is adversely impacting the agricultural backbone of the nation, is leading to a mushrooming of urban slums with their associated lawlessness and that, if unchecked, threatens to leave vast tracts of land devoid of human presence. Or - could that be the plan - entice rural people to take up residence in one or other of the ‘Imranabads’, thus creating a territorial ‘vacuum’ for the Taliban and other assorted terrorists to run riot in and maybe - just maybe remember - in which to construct ‘Imranabad 3’, ‘Imranabad 4’ and so on.
The writer has authored a book titled The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War and lives in Bhurban.