When Khalid Khurshid took oath as chief minister in December, the biggest challenge he was faced with was to match the standards set by his predecessor Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman.
Rehman in his five-year term as chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan showcased G-B in international and national forums, put extraordinary efforts into the development of infrastructure across the mountainous region, bringing reforms in health, education, agriculture and tourism.
Seven months on, Khurshid has proved his mettle as he negotiated an even better and bigger development package for G-B than his predecessors. As prime minister Imran Khan threw his weight behind Khurshid publicly, the young chief minister of G-B carried forward the agenda of development rigorously, reflecting it in the budget 2021-22.
“The five-year development package worth Rs370 billion announced by PM Imran Khan for G-B is just unprecedented,” said Minister Finance Javaid Manwa, giving credit to Khurshid who he said better pleaded G-B case at highest forums.
“Look at the G-B budget figure of Rs106billion, which is the highest ever presented by any government in the assembly,” Manwa told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
Khalid Khurshid, 41, has an edge over his rivals as he has got a degree in law from Queen Mary University of London, England. In constituency politics, he failed to win in two previous attempts. However, with success in the third attempt, he was chosen for the slot of chief minister.
“Lack of experience was evident in his decisions initially but he really picked up well in the following months,” said a senior bureaucrat in G-B government.
Minister Information, Planning And Development Fatehullah Khan said the trust level between PM Imran and Khalid Khurshid was quite high and it would guarantee the success of the G-B government. “We all are strong if our CM is strong,” Khan told The Express Tribune.
In the initial six months, Khurshid’s relatively inexperienced government faced some tough challenges, threatening to derail the peace of the region.
The challenge from clerics of jumping into a fire pit was said to be one of the most difficult situations faced by the government followed by the blasphemy case in Ghizer. However, the government demonstrated courage and maturity in resolving both issues.
“We faced the situation head-on and it enhanced our capacity manifolds regarding the handling of crisis,” said Advisor Food, Shams Lone, who is believed to be a close aid of the chief minister.
Shams believes that Khurshid was more open to elected representatives than other segments of the government. “It was the first time in G-B history that the CM gave preference to schemes by elected representatives in the budget rather than those proposed by the departments.”
Contrary to his predecessor, the present chief minister has a far experienced, mature and aggressive opposition to face within and outside the assembly. The opposition leader Amjad Hussain advocate, who is president of PPP in G-B, has all the guts to destabilize the government as he and the nationalists Nawaz Khan Naji are among a few politicians to enjoys street power.
“Khurshid is a good man but that shouldn’t be the only qualification for the chief minister,” said the opposition leader. “We can support him only if he listens to our grievances,” Hussain told The Express Tribune.
Khurshid is said to have closed doors on unelected ‘power houses’ in decision making and encouraged the cabinet to have a say in crucial matters, something unprecedented in G-B’s politics.