Abdul Akbar Khan’s interview

Abdul Akbar Khan’s interview: A hard nut to crack

By Tahir Ali

(March,2009)

Abdul Akbar Khan was born in 1949 in Spinkay, a suburban village, of Mardan. His father’s name is Sher Akbar Khan. He is an agriculturist and miner by profession. He is an LLB and also practiced law for many years.

He joined the Pakistan People’s Party and soon created an impregnable impression on (Late) Benazir Bhutto, thanks to his abilities and excellent communication skills. He gained her confidence and developed such a rapport with her that she stood by him in every thick and thin. There were moments for Akbar when there were revolts against him in party ranks but she always supported and rescued him.

He has won his seat six times. He ascribes his success to his public contacts, to his untiring service to the electorate and deceit-free politics and to the love the people have with him.

He remained speaker of the NWFP assembly from 1993-96. He also served as its deputy speaker in 1988-90. He is currently the parliamentary leader of the PPPP there. Besides, he is also a member of various standing committees and is also the chairperson of the public accounts committee.

He is a seasoned parliamentarian and the most experienced of the present ones. He raises important technical points on constitutional and economic issues. He is particularly at his best when in opposition. He says he helps every government by raising matters of public importance. He, however, is dreaded by the treasury benches for that matter.

The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

The News on Sunday: Before your appointment as PPP parliamentary leader in NWFP assembly, you often embarrassed the ANP-PPP coalition government in assembly. Now you are a bit silent. Aren’t you?

Abdul Akbar Khan: In every democratic system, there are two distinct sides called opposition and treasury benches who have specific roles to play. The former criticizes the government’s policies while the latter defends them. Their respective roles change as they step from one bench to another. You never see a chief minister or minister attacking their government nor can it be expected. That said, as far I am concerned I have never indulged myself in opposition for the sake of opposition in each of my six stints as MPA. I am for constructive opposition only. I have always raised important issues on technical grounds and will continue to do so. In fact I have been of great help to every government for that matter.

TNS: How did you find (late) Benazir Bhutto? What would have she done had she been there now?

AAK: BB would have done a lot. Her presence would have made things look very easy. She was a woman with exceptional abilities. She was approachable, a patient listener and an astute orator. She would listen intently, consider the suggestions offered and solve matters quickly. She loved the poor, democracy and the country and even sacrificed her dearest life for their sake. I think her presence at top would have been of much help and advantage to the country and its people.

TNS: Who might have killed her-local or foreign actors? Mind you she herself had nominated ex-president Musharraf as her would-be killer in her email to Mark Siegel?

AAK: I think at the moment it would be premature to say as to who are her exact killers. She was an international figure. She was a hard task master and would surely have asserted herself had she come to power. Enemies didn’t kill a politician in her- they killed the prospective prime minister of Pakistan. Being apprehensive of her intentions, stature, wisdom and courage, the enemies decided to kill her before she could become a prime minister. The enemies thought it would be difficult to attack her for tough security once she came to power. She hadn’t enough security as her pleas for security were ignored by the government- hence, the attack on her before elections. Some local actors are also suspected but they surely couldn’t have completed the task single-handedly. Their might be a foreign hand involved. This certainly was a conspiracy to destabilise Pakistan through annihilation of popular leadership. Mind you Nawas Sharif was also in exile then.

The government has gone for investigation by the UN. Investigation by the Scotland Yard in 2008 was meant for ascertaining the cause of death only and didn’t determine the killers. One prays and hopes that her actual killers would be exposed and punished. The UN investigation would help things transpire.

TNS: NWFP is replete with precious resources but it is the poorest of all the provinces of Pakistan. Do you subscribe to the view that it has been denied its due by the federal government?

AAK: You are right that it is a resource-rich but poor province. Yes NWFP has not been handed over its due share but I think politicians of the province are also to blame as much as the governments in Islamabad. Take for example the decision by the former Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government to go for arbitration on the net hydel profit issue. Arbitration was totally irrelevant in this matter- you accept arbitration when there is a mutual disagreement on a problem. There was none on this issue. The net hydel profit of the province was/is our constitutional right that was fixed by AG N Qazi commission- the commission itself was established and authorised to do so in 1987 by another constitutional body, the council of common interests (CCI). It was guaranteed by constitutional provisions and no government could therefore deny it to us. So there was no need for arbitration at all. NWFP should have stuck to AGN Qazi formula and shouldn’t have accepted the arbitration. Because once you accept an arbitrator in any matter, you will have to accept his decisions.

Besides, the MMA also abandoned the demand for payment of royalty for full 18 years from 1973 to 1991. Taking of Interest was also neglected on the outstanding amount Wapda owed to the province. Only royalty was demanded and that too on the basis of old power tariff. The result is that the province is still given net hydel profit of Rs6 billion based on power tariffs of 1987 at the rate of Rs0.33 per unit while per unit price of electricity has increased manifold since then. At present 18 billion units are produced in the province and the province deserve more than six billion on the basis of new electricity tariff.

Remember that net hdyel profit fluctuates with increase or decrease in prices of power tariff. While royalty- for example royalties on gas, minerals, timber etc- is fixed. Wrongs done to the province in royalty on its resources is a sad story in its own place.

TNS: What should the NWFP government do in this regard?

AAK: The province is faced with many challenges and problems. It is the poorest of the provinces. It is a front line area in the war on terror and is the most affected part of the country for that matter. Law and order situation is worse. Terrorism and extremism is on the rise. Our precious timber resources are being destroyed unscrupulously- according to reports two millions cubic feet of high quality timber-worth hundreds of billions of rupees- lie in open sky in Kohistan alone because of ban on transportation of timber. Similar is the case with gemstone industry.

NWFP houses 14% of the Pakistan’s population. It should have schemes of 70 billion rupees in the total public sector development programme (PSDP) but this year it has schemes of only eight billions rupees-much less than warranted on the basis of its population or poverty therein.

The NWFP government should propose mega projects for next year PSDP. For example, it should propose a scheme to bring under cultivation millions of acres of cultivable land in the south of NWFP that lies unattended. We have plenty of water available for irrigation. An estimated 10 thousand cusecs of water of our share are either utilised by other provinces or fall in the Indian Ocean. This water can be utilised for the scheme.

We all belong to the province and should ensure that NWFP gets its rights. There can not be a better opportunity. A coalition government of the same parties is running both here and at the centre. NWFP government should take up issues with the latter.

TNS: What are the fundamental faults with our political party system? Isn’t personality cult too rampant here?

AAK: The greatest drawback is Pakistani party system is that elections and politics are adopted for power and wealth. These are neither ideology-centric nor service-oriented. The main objective of politicians and parties is how to make it to the parliament. So, there isn’t, and can’t be, a merit-based selection of candidates. The criterion to field someone as candidate is whether or not he can spend enough to win his/ her seat. Sincere and committed workers are neglected. Tickets are awarded to wealthy and influential persons who may not be a sincere worker of the party. He usually deserts his party later. This develops “lota culture” and “horse-trading”. If ideology-based politics is promoted, this scourge could be eradicated.

Another malady with our political system is that commitments are violated. Mostly unrealistic promises are made with the electorate as they are not meant for fulfilment. This causes public resentment and disappointment with the system.

Yes the party system in Pakistan is personality-oriented. But the fact cannot be contested that this is a regional phenomenon not restricted to Pakistan alone. This has been a tradition all over the subcontinent. People in India, Bangla Desh, Pakistan and Srilanka follow political dynasties. They don’t accept substitutes easily for popular leaders.

TNS: The recent swat deal is being criticised as capitulation to militants. Your comments.

AAK: The deal should be viewed in its true perspective. You know Swat was a princely state. For 200 years it remained under the ambit of Sharia laws. The system in vogue there availed its people free, quick and easy justice, if nothing else. It was in 1969-70 that Swat was merged into Pakistan. But it was given a special status and made part of the Malakand division to be governed by Pata regulations. Later, the regulations were declared unconstitutional by the supreme court of Pakistan which created a legal vacuum.

The matter may also be viewed from another angle. Other parts of Pakistan have remained under the purview of Criminal procedure code (CrPC) and Pakistan penal code (PPC) for over 140 years now and are fully accustomed to these now. On the contrary, PATA and FATA didn’t experience the laws for that long. The people there could not get used to it. They faced many difficulties in getting justice. They hardly knew anything about the intricacies of the new legal system.

The people campaigned for Sharia based legal system, a system that could offer them speedy justice. It was promised to them. The constitution of Pakistan also allows this mechanism. To meet this popular demand, a Nizam – e – Adal regulation was enforced first in 1994, then in 1998 and now this one in 2009. It is at best a local solution to a local problem or a demand for speedy justice that must be fulfilled. What has it to do with bowing down to terrorists? When their demand was accepted, they announced cessation of hostilities. They were not terrorists but were people that campaigned for a cause. Had they been terrorists, they would not have announced ceasefire.

TNS: Critics say how can there be different laws in different parts of a country?

AAK: The argument is irrelevant and based on false premise. Never lose sight of the fact that PATA and FATA are inherently different from the rest of the country. These are admittedly separate entities. Judicial decisions in these areas are not based on the CrPC or PPCas in other parts of the country- PATA are governed by PATA regulations and the FATA by FCR. Income tax, customs act and many other laws of the land are not applied there. And what is ironical is that while MNAs and Senators from FATA sit in Pakistani parliament, take part in constitution making and legislation but the areas are exempted from that constitution and laws and are governed by the FCR. No law passed by parliament is applicable there unless specifically meant for FATA or PATA.

There are already different laws enforced in these areas. So, these can be dealt differently.

Even in PATA, like in Malakand division, the province is not authorised to act independently. It cannot enforce a legislation there in itself. It has to send any draft through provincial governor to the president for his approval.

TNS: Will the truce bear positive results?

AAK: It must. But I personally think that the situation and problem there is too complicated by now to be totally rectified. The deal could be partially successful. It will take some time to heal the wounds the social fabric has got there.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

6 Responses to Abdul Akbar Khan’s interview

  1. sehar says:

    there is no proper biography of Abdul akbar which show us how he came to politics and what role he play as speaker and as a minister

  2. sehar says:

    any how thanks tahir ali khan u really help us in our research project

  3. testing2 says:

    I am from Rustam, and this Abdul Akbar Khan is elected from our village along with palo. he is one of the most corrupt person and supports major criminals and extortionists. He is using those criminals to suppress the people of the region and stop other parties take roots.
    Abdul Akbar Khan does welfare works only in the days of the elections and he is seen in the region only in the days of the elections.
    Allah Help Us….

    • It is the personal view of an anonymous author sent to me via my workpress account. The fact that I publish it on my blog doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with his assertions. Unless established in a court of law with proofs, there are mere allegations. However, this space is available to Abdul Akbar Khan or any of his supporters to reply to and counter these allegations.

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