In the run-up to May 11 [this year’s] general election; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan promised – if voted to power – PTI will end VIP (very important person) culture in the country.
Spelling out in detail the plan to eradicate the deeply entrenched VIP culture, the PTI research wing – Insaaf Research Wing – in its proposed economic policy for Pakistan also suggested, “No one should travel at government expense within and outside Pakistan unless it is absolutely necessary and at minimum expense.”
In the May 11 general election, Pakistan Tehreek Insaf won a majority of seats for the provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and formed a coalition government in collaboration with Jamat-i-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party and Pakistan Jamhori Itehad.
According to PTI spokesman Naeemul-ul-Haq, chairman Imran Khan – while nominating Pervez Khattak as chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Lahore on May 19 – issued instructions to the party high command saying;
- Khattak would not live in spacious CM house in Peshawar;
- CM and his ministers would not take advantage of any protocol;
- The minister will not fly the national flag on his/her vehicle.
- No police security escort for ministers.
- The culture of corruption and favoritism would be eradicated.
Later the Chief Minister reaffirmed the promise made by his party chairman and vowed to eradicate the VIP culture from the province for ever.
Campaigning for the general election, Imran Khan continuously criticized the lavish lifestyle of the public office holders including the president, prime minister, chief ministers, and federal and provincial ministers in a country where, he said, half of the population is living under the poverty line.
Much before his election campaign, the cricketer-turned-politician promised that, after coming into power, PTI would bulldoze the boundary walls of palatial Governor houses and would turn them into places like parks, public libraries and universities.
However, contrary to the public posturing of the party’s central leadership, the PTI provincial President Asad Qaiser – after being sworn in as speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on May 30 – started taking advantage of full police escort reserved for the speaker using a convoy of bullet proof vehicles escorted by police vans for his movement. Qaiser in an interview has, however, justified his movement in bulletproof cars with a heavily-armed police escort and said it was due to the poor law and order situation in the province.
On June 2, 2013 Chief Minister Khattak earned nationwide appreciation in print and electronic media when he visited Punjab provincial capital Lahore without any police escort. He even did not take advantage of police escort from the Punjab government for his movement in that provincial capital.
However, Khattak later rented a helicopter for his personal use to attend the wedding ceremony of the son of a close friend in the Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, drawing criticism from across the board.
A PTI worker on his Twitter page reacted to Khattak’s use of a helicopter for personal use and said, “I am a PTI supporter and voter but if this is at the government’s expense then it should be stopped and condemned by Imran Khan sahib.”
[Pics: Khattak using a helicopter pic.twitter.com/2Zud3onPZk
Imran Khan took action on the issue and asked the chief minister to pay the bills from his own pockets. Later, speaking on floor of the provincial assembly, Khattak said he realized the mistake and informed the house that he had paid the bill.
Shiraz Paracha – a spokesman for the chief minister – talking to Truth Tracker confirmed that the chief minister had paid the bill from his personal account on June 23. “We have the receipt [of payment]…..but we can’t reveal the exact amount due to security reason,” Paracha tells TT.
Instead of in the official chief minister’s house, the chief minister is living at his personal residence in the posh Hayatabad township. However, the deployment of a large police force at the private residence of CM for security purposes has created problems for the residents of the locality. All roads and streets leading to the chief minister’s private house are either closed or the commuters have to undergo strict security checks to get to their own homes.
A retired professor, living in the same locality, in a letter to the provincial government asked for payment of Rs 200 monthly for fuel charges to pay for – he claimed – the extra distance he must travel to get around traffic detours due to blockades erected on streets leading to his home.
“In the name of security they have taken advantage of police protection, their convoy and houses are protected by special forces,” Professor Iqbal Tajak told Truth Tracker.
However, the display of security protocol was witnessed on Aug 26, 2013 when the main Saidu Sharif-Mingora road was closed for a “VIP moment” for hours as Imran Khan and Chief Minister Khattak were visiting Saidu Sharif Hospital in Swat to visit patients suffering from Dengue Fever.
“Nothing has been changed…the road was closed for general transport for six to seven hours during the visit of PTI leaders in Swat,” said Khalid Mahmood, a local politician with the Pakhtun-Khwa Milli Awami Party.
A PTI leader and member of provincial assembly, Azizullah Khan, however, justified the closure of main roads saying; “the visit [of Imran Khan] was unscheduled and the local administration made the decision due to heavy traffic.”
“Neither the CM nor Imran Khan were aware of the closure of roads due to security protocol,” says Azizullah Khan.
Analyzing independent views, on-the-ground realities and the public’s reaction on social media, Truth Tracker has found evidence that PTI has compromised on its promise.