Popularity is required to gain power. Political parties promise the sky but fail to live up to the expectations of the public once in power. There is a huge gap between the results and the promises made indicating a lack of understanding of the ground realities and the challenges faced. When it comes to delivery only two governments stand out. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) and then Muhammad Khan Junejo were able to deliver good governance.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) under the charismatic, popular leadership of Imran Khan (IK) is all set to gain power again with great public support. This time around, IK has promised to convert his popularity into solid delivery. The eyes of the nation are fixed on his credible leadership.

Since July 1977, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been in constant decline. The institutional damage is widespread with ‘mafia’ control. Corruption and incompetence are rampant. Nothing moves without the wheels of gratification. Honesty is punished not respected. There was a time in the land of the pure when people believed that; “Honesty is the best policy”, not anymore—it is perhaps the biggest impediment in getting the job done.

Recently a new tussle has started in the largest province. The new provincial government decided to investigate the excesses committed by the Police to stop the march to the capital on May 25, 2002. Following orders, the CCPO (Capital City Police Officer) Lahore started to identify those who crossed the legal boundaries. In retaliation, the federal government decided to transfer him. It is almost impossible to punish crimes of the state even after 75 years of independence. The Model Town massacre players remain on the loose despite a judicial investigation by a Lahore High Court (LHC) judge.

For meaningful results, the entire administrative set-up has to be neutral as it was before the fateful party-less elections of 1985. There is a blatant conflict of interest. The recent amendments in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance are reportedly specific. While everyone talks about the importance of merit, it is almost impossible to exercise it. Despite rampant joblessness, thousands of vacancies remain unfilled to accommodate friends and relatives. The elected representatives of the people are no match to the entrenched bureaucracy that makes sure that delivery does not take place. Relief to the public remains out of reach. Failure of the legislature is the important missing link. The level of legislation and debates is pathetic. There was a time when the speeches of the leader of the house/opposition were music to our ears but no more. People-specific issues are never discussed on the floor of the house. The democratic order is off track.

Article 25 (A) of the constitution has declared literacy as a fundamental right to be provided by the state. Universal Primary Coverage (Arrangements for school space for every five-year-old) is the minimum requirement for this constitutional requirement to be met; there seems to be no effort in this direction. Even the basic data from the National Data Registration Authority (NADRA) has not been obtained to start planning. Till the decade of the seventies, even the right to travel was restricted. Passports were issued to a selected few after verification by a Gazetted Officer. It was the elected government of ZAB that initiated major reforms. New SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) were formulated to assist the public. To verify the credentials of the applicants, a scheme of identity cards was started which has now been computerised. Every Pakistani now has a National Computerized Identity Card (NIC). Most foreign remittances are from citizens who left during this period in search of greener pastures abroad.

Popularity before elections must lead to delivery after otherwise, it will be business as usual. The system works on paper for which documentation plays an important role. PTI started well with think tanks for policy formulation which should be revived if effective delivery mechanisms are desired by the only credible leader of our corruption-infested dark era which now finds itself drowned in spiralling debt and raging waters with no visible relief in sight unless there is a major change of direction that focuses on delivery.