Pakistan Reader# 281, 27 January 2022
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or KP is Pakistan's third-largest province in population and economy. Currently, the province is ruled by the PTI, where the party has a majority in the provincial assembly. Of the total 145 seats, the PTI holds a clear majority with 94. Geographically and politically, the province could be divided into two broad segments – the tribal regions that constituted the FATA earlier bordering Afghanistan, and the settled districts that constituted the erstwhile NWFP province.
In 2022, the following three are likely to assume prominence in the KP.
1. Political changes in KP during 2022
On 19 December 2021, the first local body polls after merging FATA were held across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The elections witnessed PTI's decline and the rise of other players in the polls. The PTI suffered a humiliating setback; Fazlur's JUI-F secured 17 tehsil council seats (PTI could win only 12). The JUI-F also won the critical mayor seat in Peshawar. A major outcome of the local elections in 2021 is the changing support to the PTI, and the JUI-F’s increased popularity.
Given the PTI neglect of the province, and increased despair among the people, along with the highest inflation and poor economic performance in the region, the party is likely to lose further ground. Hence, the second phase of polls in March 2022 will not be different for the PTI. With reports on Pakistan Peoples Party and the Awami National Party having agreed to work together during the second phase of the local government elections in 2022, political changes are expected in the KP. Additionally, there are two more actors - the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
2. Challenges of Minorities, Violence and Water Security
In 2022, the primary challenges to the province will emerge from social issues. The recent burning of a temple in Karak shook the province, and should underline the issue of minorities. Addressing this, the government decided to build and restore 109 worship places and residential areas of minority communities. While this sounds promising, community involvement and acceptance are critical to the initiatives' success. Given that Pakistan’s minorities are continually fearful and apprehensive, this is easier said than done.
Second, water security in the province. A silent disaster is looming, especially in Peshawar. Urbanisation, non-enforcement of rules, and a lack of understanding about the effects of excessive water mining, according to experts, are some of the primary factors driving the city towards a potential disaster.
Third, an increase in terrorist activities and civilian killings. According to the PIPS annual report published in January 2022, North Waziristan has been a critical hotspot of insecurity and militant bloodshed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the past few years. In comparison to 31, there were 37 terrorist incidents in the district in 2021, accounting for nearly 33 per cent of the total reported attacks from KP, killing 50 people and injuring 27 others.
3. Potential economic growth
KP has Pakistan's third-largest provincial economy, but its growth has been slow. The province currently contributes 10 per cent of Pakistan's GDP and 20 per cent of its mining output. The province leads the economy in forestry and agriculture by generating considerable revenue. The International Growth Centre predicted a steady rise in KP's economy; the report has proposed adopting private-sector-friendly policies to attract investors in construction, agriculture, livestock, mining, and tourism. The provincial government has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU's) with 44 foreign investment companies at Dubai International Expo 2021. Foreign investors have reportedly expressed a strong desire to attract tourism, energy, power, food processing plants, and infrastructure. When compared to the previous years, the KP is likely to face an economic growth in 2022.
Fahd Husain, “Red Zone Files: KP rings the alarm bell,” Dawn, 23 December 2021
“Rude shock for PTI,” Dawn, 22 December 2021
Fawad Ali, “The silent drought in the making,” The Express Tribune, 21 November 2021
Pakistan Economic Survey 2020-21, Government of Pakistan.
“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa economic strategy report,” International Growth Centre