Almost every political party in Pakistan mentions environmental change in their election manifesto for 2024, yet it is rarely heard in the public rallies of these political parties.

However, elections are scheduled nationwide for February 8th, and all political parties have released their election manifestos. This time, alongside other crucial issues, climate action and environmental change have found a place in the 2024 election manifesto.

The Awami National Party (ANP) had begun preparations for the 2024 elections last year and had also released its election manifesto. The ANP's manifesto is once again focused on solving the issues of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while the promises made and commitments based on environmental issues are limited to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's extent.

The ANP's election manifesto was released in August 2023 under the name of “RANRA”, which translates to “light” in Pashto. Their slogan Lighting the way to Pakhtunkhwa’s success.

ANP's manifesto this time is intriguing because it includes promises of initiatives regarding environmental protection and actions related to environmental changes in the province.

ANP begins its manifesto with environmental protection. Their manifesto aims to find practical solutions to critical issues such as water scarcity, environmental degradation, population growth and energy crises.

Forest Conservation

The ANP also pledges for environmental conservation of forests in its election manifesto.

• ANP will implement stringent implementation of forest laws to stop deforestation.

• ANP will carry out large scale forestation in collaboration with the local 
communities and civil society organisations — five million new trees to be planted every year. The initiatives will be led by local communities and facilitated by the provincial government. 

• ANP will equip PDMAs and other agencies for extinguishing forest fires on an urgent basis.

Water and Sanitation 

Furthermore, the Awami National Party (ANP) promises to introduce a scientific urban system across the province to improve water and sanitation. Their manifesto includes the following commitments:

• ANP will introduce a scientific sanitation plan for all urban centres of Pakhtunkhwa 
in the first two years of the government with the help of private/public urban 
planners.

• ANP will make sure that water pumps and water filtration plants are established 
in all village councils and all wards with a rational approach with the support of 
Private-Public Partnership (PPP) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). 

Environmental Protection

The Awami National Party (ANP) pledges in its manifesto to ensure environmental protection by immediately halting deforestation. Support will be provided to civil society organisations to prevent and mitigate deforestation.

• For stopping further climate erosion, ANP will make sure that all laws made for 
environmental protection shall be implemented in letter and spirit.

• ANP will make sure that deforestation is stopped immediately. Civil society 
organisations will be facilitated to help stop climate erosion and raise 
consciousness for environmental protection. 

• All governmental and non-governmental projects will be strictly monitored for 
implementation of environmental laws. 

• Laws for urban planning will be made and will be strictly implemented on all 
residential and commercial buildings to stop the erosion of mountains, depletions 
of fountains and contamination of water channels and rivers.

• Proportionate plantation will be made compulsory for all newly constructed 
housing societies in municipal and non-municipal areas. 

• Proportionate areas for green belts, parks and open spaces will be made 
compulsory for all newly established housing societies and commercial areas.

Waste Management 

The ANP further emphasises in its manifesto that attention will be focused on addressing critical issues such as solid waste management. To achieve this, measures such as recycling, rehabilitation of facilities, and increasing the use of waste materials through circular economy approaches will be prioritised. 

• By converting waste into energy sources,we can not only reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills but also generate clean and sustainable energy for our communities.

• Additionally, we will focus on promoting recycling, resource recovery, and circular economy practices to maximise the utilisation of waste materials.

• Our government will support the development of recycling infrastructure, educate citizens about responsible waste disposal, and foster partnerships with private entities to drive investment and innovation in the waste management sector. 

ANP manifesto & Karachi's 25% Pashtuns

Karachi has a population of 17,236,000 according to the latest census of 2023 by the Bureau of Statistics. According to Census 2023 statistics, Pashtuns constitute 25 percent of Karachi's population, while the ANP's election manifesto 2024 nowhere mentions a large portion of Pashtuns living in Karachi.

However, due to the large informal settlements in Karachi, such as Banaras, Metroville, Sher Shah, Hijrat Colony, Sultanabad, Metroville and various other settlements along natural waterways, a significant portion of Karachi's Pashtun population is forced to endure unhealthy living conditions in terms of climate change. 

These areas include settlements along the banks of canals such as Landhi, Banaras, Kemari, Shireen Jinnah Colony, Hijrat Colony and Sultanabad. These Pashtun settlements along the canals face severe health hazards due to the potential for highly flammable (rapidly igniting) methane gas and possible explosive hazards. Additionally, their proximity to waterways contributes to environmental pollution issues by impacting oxygen levels in the environment.

The Citizenry tried to know from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial official of the ANP, Imdadullah Yousufzai, why there is no plan for their future in the manifesto of the 25 percent Pashtun living in Karachi.

Yousufzai, a member of the core group behind ANP’s manifesto, explains that “while it is true that the ANP initiates its manifesto with a focus on the issues of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is historically significant to note that there is no plan specifically for the 25 percent Pashtuns residing in large cities like Karachi.

The Pashtun majority areas in Karachi are mostly populated in informal settlements, which have been the target of urban development plans in the past due to terrorism concerns. At the time, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was actively engaged in combating terrorism, and our attention was diverted.

However, we now recognise and understand that there is a significant population of our province residing in Karachi. Their issues are solvable, and it is time to address them. With the Pashtuns of Karachi facing additional challenges due to their settlement along natural waterways and other natural pathways, it is evident that their issues are further compounded.

If we come into government, we will collaborate with the Sindh government to work for the betterment of our people residing in Karachi.”

Ishaq Swati, Karachi-based ANP leader, who has ties to the city, explained to The Citizenry that, “wherever Pashtuns reside in Karachi's informal settlements, they are the ones most vulnerable to the risk of their homes collapsing.” By this, he means that at any time, their dwellings, their buildings, can collapse.

Last year, a similar incident occurred in the Patel Para area of Karachi, resulting in the collapse of a building and the loss of 17 lives. The cause of this tragedy was the old infrastructure in densely populated areas, where heaps of garbage can often be seen in narrow alleys.

Furthermore, residents living near waterways frequently suffer from illnesses. Swati highlighted those issues. According to him, while there may not be a specific plan in the ANP manifesto for the Pashtun population in Karachi, the party leadership has allied with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) in some areas to empower its candidates.

“And we withdrew on this basis so that the problems of the slums in which Pashtuns live can be reduced in the next five years.” Further, Swati mentioned that the Pashtun communities are the most affected by environmental changes in Karachi.

“Regardless of which Pashtun settlement you visit, you will find a nullah nearby. When the rainy season arrives in the city, these nullahs overflow into these settlements. We understand that the Pashtun population residing in these areas of Karachi is enduring a significantly compromised and unhealthy lifestyle due to environmental factors. To alleviate their issues, the ANP will play its full role.”

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Subedited by Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui
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The story is a collaborative effort between The Citizenry and The Times of Karachi, in partnership with the Climate Action Center.

 

Written By Faisal Rehman