“HAMAISHA DAIR KAR DETA HOON........”        –Munir Niazi

On Wednesday last, a Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, directed the government of Pakistan to appoint a whole time chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, within a week.

This is not an isolated case of delay, on the part of the Federal Government in the matter of appointments to key positions.

Take the case of filling the posts of heads of 28 public sector institutions. These badly-run organizations include the National Power Construction Company, the Trade Development Authority, the National Insurance Company, the National Fertiliser Corporation, the Pakistan State Oil, the Oil and Gas Company Limited, SNGPL, SGCL(Gas Companies) National Bank of Pakistan, PEPCI, PMDC, NEPRA, PIA and the Pakistan Steel.

These enterprises cost hundreds of billions of subsides every year. There have also been continuing reports of indiscipline and mismanagement in these organizations. According to a recent report, a 73 billion reduction has occurred in the deposits of the National Bank during the July-September quarter. A commission was appointed way back in July under the chairmanship of Abdul Rauf Chaudhry for selecting suitable candidates for the said posts. Much later, the government issued a notification to abolish the upper age limit of the candidates for the posts of chairmen and CEOS. After this relaxation, there has been a fresh wave of applications. It now appears that it will be almost half a year by the time the applicants are short-listed. What an achievement!

One is at a loss to understand as to why there is so much sluggishness in taking important decisions.

Mention may also be made of yet another important unfilled vacancy—that of chairman of the Higher Education Commission. What is holding back the government to do the needful?

How will the Prime Minister explain the fact that the vital position of head of the Election Commission of Pakistan is currently held by an Acting Chairman? The Acting Chairman is expected to succeed the present Chief Justice next month. Will there again be an acting CEC?

How come that the all-important Parliamentary standing committees which ware required to be appointed within 30 days of the government taking over, actually started working properly after the lapse of more than 4 months when their chairpersons were finally appointed. This act of omission has, considerably, delayed the process of legislation in the Parliament.

May one ask the prime minister as to why he has not attended a single meeting of the Senate, so far? This indeed is a serious default. Again how is it that he has been to the National Assembly only five or six times while he was expected to attend its sessions much more frequently?  

This account of lack of seriousness of purpose at the highest level will be incomplete if the absence of a timely decision in the case of senior most military appointments is not noted. The post of the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff fell vacant, sometime ago. No regular appointment has yet been made. The army COAS is holding the additional charge. He himself will be retiring during the next few days. The time—honoured tradition of announcing the selection of a successor chief of the army, much in advance, has been ignored and there is no sign of urgency on this account.

One may also recall a delay of many months before the posts of ambassadors in the key-stations of Washington and London were filled.

It is high time the Prime Minister gave serious thought to this unwelcome habit of delaying important decisions. He must persuade himself to learn to arrive at an appropriate decision at the right time.

Consider the case of the consensus of all the political parties and backing of the Chief of the Army Staff on the crucial question of holding a dialogue with the Taliban. This vital national decision was taken on September 9, 2013.

While one must acknowledge the remarkable press conference and the eloquent speech delivered by the Minister for Interior on the floor on the National Assembly earlier this month informing us that a delegation of three Ulema was poised to meet the Taliban leadership to settle the start of the talks, it may also be noted that it took almost two months to arrive at this stage.

Conceded that the task of preparing the ground for engaging the Taliban leadership was highly sensitive and complicated and that there were quite a large number of groups to be contacted. The impression, however, remains that the urgency calling for expeditiously moving ahead was in short supply. (This crucial exercise was being watched not only by various political and other elements within the country including many who were opposed to the envisaged talks but also the rest of the world and especially Afghanistan, USA and India—with the continuing disturbing factor of the drone strikes infuriating the Taliban and adding to the anti-American sentiment of the people of Pakistan.)

The fact of the matter is that the delay spread over many weeks has resulted in weakening the momentum generated by the united resolve of the political parties to enter into talks with the Taliban and hammer out mutually acceptable terms of engagement.

Time indeed was of the essence, knowing that powerful inimical forces were working hard to sabotage the initiative. Sections of our own media—both print and electronic—were also vociferously projecting the undesirability and futility of holding talks with so called killers and miscreants. Much ammunition was further provided by Taliban’s continuing attacks on security personnel and civilians.

One appreciates the Interior Minister’s determined endeavours to make progress in spite of the odds faced by him but in view of a highly volatile and increasingly unhelpful surrounding situation, the talks should have been taken up within a matter of three or four weeks.

Prime Minister too should have been a little more actively engaged in ensuring that this most difficult task was undertaken with commensurate speed and vigour.

With USA unmoved by the pleas put forward by the Prime Minister during his visit to Washington, the drone-strike killing of the Taliban chief has added to the daunting challenge faced by the government. The selection of the new Amir of TTP (Fazlullah) will make the job of contacts with the militants enormously problematic. PTI’s threats to block the NATO container supplies is bound to compound the emerging complications. The furore, created by the PPP over Interior Minister’s (incorrect) reply to the Assembly question about the number of civilian casualties because of drone strikes and his subsequent remarks does not augur well for the continuation of the united political stand on opening a dialogue with the Taliban.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.