Neither conviction nor commission

Nothing happens in the absence of conviction or commission. As the era of conviction and ideology is over, without upfront payment no work is possible in the administrative set up in the land of the pure. The current impasse that the country faces is because of this shortcoming. As commissions are being squeezed the work tends to suffer. In the absence of well-defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) there is no straight path to follow, the rule being, ‘No payment no service’. Even the officers, high-ups, ministers seem helpless against these mafias that control the paperwork essentially needed to get the job done. If pressed too hard, the file disappears, never to be found again.
The present curbs on commission have slowed down the workflow, bureaucracy has adopted an indifferent attitude, leaving the elected representatives to face the music. With expectations running high and slow on-ground delivery, frustrations have kicked in. From day one, the Sharif model of governance was based on commissions, so it ensured movement as bounties were shared at all levels. The original Bhutto approach was based on solid conviction. The first People’s Party (PPP) regime was able to serve the people by providing good governance. Zardari on the other hand, was always inspired by the Sharif ways of profit. After the demise of Benazir, the Charter of Democracy (COD) resulted in dacoity. Once the Bhutto ideology was lost, PPP became a party of commission leaving behind the much cherished conviction to serve downtrodden masses thus losing its popular support, especially in Punjab which was once its bastion. Bhutto had willed to be buried in Lahore where he founded his party together with progressives like Dr Mubashir Hasan, Sheikh Rashid Sr. and Khurshid Hasan Mir to name a few.
Unfortunately, the recent transition from commission to conviction has not been properly planned or executed. The internal resistance from the forces of status-quo have succeeded in stalling change, in absence of a clear-cut roadmap, confusion prevails. The Prime Minister (PM) is right in saying that the country is in the grip of mafias. The think tanks within the party had deliberated on important policy guidelines which were ignored when the party fell into the control of the electables. The current policy of unified curriculum was formulated by party think tanks after getting inputs from all the stakeholders. Shafqat Mahmood as federal Minister of Education was able to reach consensus with all the provinces on the implementation of this policy. Without proper homework or defined product—in the words of President Arif Alvi—delivery remains a challenge. As Secretary General of the party, Dr Alvi did a lot of homework for the Chairman for effective decision making. With the thrust of bounty hunters and ouster of Dr Sb from this pivotal post, the party scene has drastically changed. Imran Khan has vision and leadership, he relies on his cabinet for inputs, who in turn are dependent on the ministries they head. As the civil administration is non-functional with record and dates in disarray, the decision-making process is seriously flawed for which the PM has to take the blame. Fawad Chaudhry has been very vocal about these shortcomings of the state apparatus. Major surgery is needed to heal the decaying body of the civil bureaucracy.
The views differ in Islamabad, some believe that there is still time to streamline the system and deliver before the next elections while others desire across-the-board surgery to remove impediments in the path of good governance. As the Armed Forces are functional and have their work cut out, they ensure that bureaucratic inertia is kept out. Kamran Rasool was the last civilian bureaucrat to head the Ministry of Defence after him there have been retired Generals. Lt. Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, after retiring from the Southern Command now heads the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) Authority, currently the most important development framework in the country. The headquarters of this important organisation is on the fifth floor of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) building located on the Constitution Avenue. Several important development projects are being managed by this outfit, that range from energy to infrastructure development with the energy future of Pakistan, the Thar Coal Deposit being one of them.
No government since the Zia Dark Ages (July 1977 to August 1988) has been able to reverse the decline mainly because of institutional damage caused by his misrule and the corrupt-to-the-core politicians he left behind to carry on his legacy. There are only two real political national parties in the country namely PPP and PTI. Zardari has cashed in on the Bhutto goodwill, Bilawal only has a chance if he moves away from his father’s approach to politics in order to revive the original party. There was a time when people entered the political arena to serve; now they are there to exploit and build their empires. Only a few honest legislators remain who are either sidelined or rendered ineffective by the ruling elite that consists of electables and their brothers in crime in the civil administration. Commission has become the norm. A way out of this impasse has to be found to move the country forward. In the words of my late father Nazir Ahmed Malik, the Tehreek-e-Pakistan Gold Medalist, whose death anniversary is today, the country has fallen into the hands of ‘Thugs’. We have to retrieve it before it is too late.

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation, email:

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