It is the irony of our nation that it has been and is being ruled and governed by people who claim to be ‘Mr/ Ms know it all’. All political parties, generally, appoint ministers, advisors, consultants and institutional heads who have not even a faintest idea of their portfolios and the accompanying responsibilities. Thus, this practice helps to concentrate power in few hands which is against the basic tenants of democracy- performance, accountability and devolution of power to grass-root levels.
Generally in any established democratic setup, there is an incumbent government cabinet and a shadow cabinet of the opposition party(s). The incumbent government prepares policies and concerned ministers debate them in the public with the intent to disseminate government’s perspective and take everybody onboard, a principle of democracy. Here, the role of shadow cabinet(s) of opposition parties is to either provide positive critique of tabled policies or provide alternative policies. This democratic practice not only serves the interests of the country but also educates general public about the various challenges facing the country. Thus, in talk shows on various international electronic media channels such as BBC and CNN, we see government ministers debating their respective governments/ departments’ policies and performance.
However, in contrast, in our democratic setup we see a totally different political milieu. No political party has any (un)announced shadow cabinet, an indicator of lack of political culture and intellectual paucity. There are stalwarts in various political parties who are the political mouthpiece of their parties and have certain assured portfolios in the cabinet, should their political party form government. However, the distribution of rest of cabinet portfolios is based on political expediencies in which generally merit has no role, whatsoever. Consequently, we have humongous cabinets, where most members either do not have the capability and the expertise or the will to perform their duties. This aspect of intellectual paucity is manifested in our daily talk shows on our electronic media. A few incumbent government and opposition stalwarts are in all the talk shows to debate everything under the sun such as current national political situation, foreign policy, privatization policy, industrial policy, law and order. Similarly, the government, whether at provincial or federal level, have advisors who represent their governments on almost every topic, irrespective of their qualification or expertise. Thus, to no surprise, most of any incumbent government’s policies fail to take-off or fail miserably after some time causing immeasurable loss to national exchequer. This sham allotment of ministerial/ advisor portfolios does serve to concentrate power in few hands but is detrimental to establishing true democracy and meritocracy in the country.
Further, lack of meritocracy in allotment of ministerial posts then cascades to lower levels, visible through the appointment of less than qualified people with dubious records to the executive posts of important national institutions. These people then appoint and promote sycophants to serve their interests. Thus, these self-serving, short-sighted interests have destroyed our state institutions, economy and morals of our society.
Moreover, in a democratic setup the main scope of parliament is to legislate while local councils-headed by mayors, are entrusted with development of their localities and cities. However, our parliamentarians instead of legislation are more interested in, for some unknown reasons, securing development funds. Finally, no effort is made in our democratic setup to continuously educate, improve and appraise representatives’ performance both in and outside the parliament at federal and provincial levels.
Thus, generally in our country there is more of the talk and less of the walk taken by any government and its ministries for improving the plight of general public through legislation, its implementation and accountability. Strangely politicians of all hue are more interested in protecting the ‘democracy’ than building the traditions of open debate and accountability on which democracy rests. There is a need to cultivate meritocracy and accountability in our political milieu: right person for the right job, with accountability. In this aspect electronic and print media have an important role to play: only those government minister/ advisors (and opposition representatives) should be called for debates who have relevance to the topic at hand. Further, various ministers should be invited to discuss the performance of their respective ministries; and how they improved the lot of general public who have elected them to the parliament.