Carrying on up the Khyber Imran Khan’s party improves services in Pakistan’s (KPK) – The Economist

The PTI now wants to see locals flocking to use public services. It has certainly made schools more appealing: the party has appointed 40,000 more teachers, rebuilt institutions blown up by the Taliban and furnished others with toilets and electricity. Teacher absenteeism has fallen. But the PTI’s claim that about 100,000 students have chosen to switch from private to public schools is based on dodgy data. There are other bones to pick. In 2013 the PTI allowed its coalition partner, the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist group, to remove pictures in textbooks of women without a veil, among other measures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The diagnosis is less mixed when it comes to health care. The PTI has employed many more medical staff, raising the ratio of doctors per 1,000 people from 0.16 to 0.24. It has also begun, albeit far from smoothly, to roll out a comprehensive health-insurance card for poor families. All this has had an effect. The number of operations in public hospitals has doubled since 2013; inpatient cases have risen by half as much again. Such change comes despite objections from special interests that lose out from reforms. Pharmacists broke the shelves of a new drug dispensary at one Peshawar hospital, so incensed were they by its offering medicine at the wholesale price.

Yet the PTI may struggle to win a second term in 2018. One problem is excessive promises. Mr Khan, who broke into politics after a stellar career as a cricketer, pledged a “tsunami” of change. But it took his inexperienced party two years to get a handle on government, and many of its reforms so far, according to Faisal Bari of LUMS university, need much longer to get entrenched. Some of its more notable improvements are hardly photogenic. It is one thing for people gleefully to take selfies in front of a new flyover in Peshawar, another to do the same in front of new toilets in a rural girls’ school.

That Mr Khan himself appears to have lost interest in the province does not help. He aspires to national office and spends much of his time heckling the prime minister, who is under investigation for corruption. The PTI is starting to look more like the established parties. Having long mocked rapid-transit bus lanes, a favourite pork-barrel project of such parties, as a costly distraction from public-sector reform, the PTI is now building one of its own in Peshawar. It is said to be the country’s most expensive, per kilometre, yet.

 

The Economist

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Emergency treatment”

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