Governance issues in Pakistan

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by Prof Sultan Mahmood Niazi

Good governance is largely identified as the implementation of rules protecting the society against violence and invasion, ensuring just administration of justice and managing smooth functioning of institutions and social and economic development. Good governance is the key to peace, prosperity, esteem, erudition and development in the community.

As different parts of a machine need to be properly oiled and well-lubricated in order to make the machine work smoothly, similarly good governance is necessary for the peaceful running of a country. The development of country depends on the essential component of good governance which sustains and propels the government machinery towards the goals of gaining international recognition and respectful status in the comity of nations. Wherever in the world, a country is governed well, the fruits of good governance are evident in the form of national solidarity; human rights are protected; peace and justice prevail and the masses enjoy equal opportunities of surging ahead, both socially and economically. The fruits of the progress and development of the country are manifestly enjoyed by all and sundry.

Pakistan was born with heaps and heaps of multifarious challenges right at the start. The newly-born country was infested with myriads of problems;  problems like more than one thousand miles long distance between the two wings of the country, the issue of accession of the princely states of Indo-Pakistan to either Pakistan or to India, sudden mass scale influxes of refugees and their accommodation problem, the question of river water distribution, division of assets, issue of national language, and absence of effective administrative machinery – all started gnawing into the raw entity of the infant country. All these problems still continue popping up their head again and again in one form or the other. The most tragic of the impending setbacks was the death of Quaid-e-Azam. It further added fuel to the fire of dissension and instability. Since then, no other leader of Quaid’s caliber has risen to lead the country like him. That’s why maladies like the lack of unity, shallowness of faith and dearth of discipline have taken the country in their grip and have pushed it into an administrative quagmire. Ultimately the designs of our arch enemy resulted in the breaking away of our eastern wing in 1971.
Keeping the essential and basic importance of good governance in the progress and prosperity of a country in view, when we examine and analyze the situation prevailing in Pakistan in view, we feel perturbed to see the things moving towards a state of chaos. There are dismal indications that good governance which is the key to efficiently meeting the contemporary challenges of the world, is totally missing. The oil which makes the system of the state effective and efficient is not being injected into the administrative machinery of the country. People of the country are bereft of equal rights. Minorities frequently complain of discrimination in the pursuit of their religious freedom and in the exercise of their religious rights. The powers to be consider themselves above law. People wielding influence behave as if they are not accountable before law. Corruption is rampant and growing at the pace of snow ball in spite of the tall talk and vociferous daily but empty claims of new turning new leafs in the annals of the state.

in a country where good governance prevails, it is not only the government officials who are cognizant of their duties and responsibilities, but the common citizens also are aware of their duties and play their role sincerely. But in Pakistan, the economic analyses sorrowfully indicate that there is no   cooperative environment. National economy prospers and financial investment in development and commercial projects increases only in an atmosphere of trust in the powers that hold the reins of the state. Investments in industrial and commercial sectors are diminishing, adversely affecting the national prosperity. The masses daily wake up to face the fiends of rising prices and injustice. They find themselves constantly being pushed further and further down the line of poverty.

Class-based system of education leaves little scope for the under-privileged sector of the society to forge ahead. The quality of education provided at the public sector institutions does not adequately equip the poor students to compete with the students born with silver spoons in their mouths. Children from privileged families receive their education at prestigious institutions, the gates of which are closed for the ordinary students on account of their exorbitantly high fee structure. Our Abraham Lincolns are merely destined to be subjected to inhuman conditions of training at workshops and garbage dumps.

Balance among the various institutions is the absolute requirement for good governance, but unfortunately we, in Pakistan, are passing through a critical time of extreme institutional imbalance. The institutions have almost lost their sense of responsibility to fulfill their responsibility. There is dearth of   organization and cooperation among the different administrative segments. Successive imposition of martial law governments has weakened the political institutions. Installation of puppet government in the garb of democratically elected rulers, with their strings in the hands of the king-makers has been a sore in the political framework.

In addition to this, rampant corruption is eroding the economic foundations of the state. Power has constantly been misused as a means to accumulating tainted money. World powers came up with the concept of establishment of off-shore companies exclusively for providing safe havens to the dishonest dealers, corrupt officials and ruthless criminals, because such companies ultimately keep their deposits in the banks owned by big powers.

Poor relations between the Center and the four provinces of the country also depict the sad story of bad governance in Pakistan. Coordination between the federation and the provinces is essential for ensuring the smooth running of the state machinery. On the contrary, Centre and the provinces have always been at loggerhead with each other. Disharmony over ownership of natural resources and other issues has kept Pakistan under constant strain. The tragic fall of Dhaka was the result of such contentious relations. That’s why; Pakistan has always been experiencing the jolts of political instability. These conditions have again and again prompted the armed forces to topple the civilian government and promulgate martial law in the country. The 18th constitutional amendment has given more powers to the provinces, but some basic issues still remain to be discussed thread-bare and rationalized.

Frequent interventions by the armed forces in the political affairs of the state have never given democracy a fair chance to flourish in our country. Our political leaders are also responsible for this predicament. They have always tried to safeguard their vested interests in the garb of politics. They have never thought of giving the norms of democracy to take deep roots. Judiciary has also been the victim of such political instability. That’s why; our country has failed to develop healthy political institutions — a lasting democracy or an impartial judiciary. Tainted judges like (late) Arshad Malik are black-mailed to deliver dubious judgments.

Absence of independent judiciary is also hampering Pakistan’s way towards achieving good governance. Delayed justice is due to poor governance. Justice delayed is justice denied, which directly contributes to the sense of desperation felt by the poor. Incompetent judges have also greatly hampered the timely administration of justice, consequently making the judiciary weak. When the grievances of the masses are not redressed, people resort to violent solutions of their problems. Old rivalries between families and litigating parties result in series of killing by both sides and spreading terror in the country. This state of affairs results in the deterioration of the rule of law. Allegations like , collusion of the judiciary and the army, rather the uncalled for interference of the army in judicial affairs have created an impression of mistrust among the masses

Owing to poor governance, the government is losing control over law and order situation. Bad examples are set when individuals put themselves ahead of institutions. Headlines of suicide attacks, target killings, robbery and other crimes glare on the TV screens and on the front pages of the newspapers every day, and the government seemingly looks helpless in tackling such crimes.

Worsening state of law and order has caused economic instability in the country, where the burden of foreign debts has already become unbearable. Poor law and order conditions have kept the investors away from daring to risk their investments in our country. Economic mismanagement has further aggravated the conditions. There is a great economic disparity in population. The rich are getting richer and the poor are becoming poorer. Owing to our fragile economy, FDI is shrinking. The economic disaster caused by terrorism and political instability has pushed the national economy to the brink of liquidation. Pakistan’s huge debt servicing liabilities leave little scope of planning and undertaking new development projects. The evil chain of getting foreign loan for paying interest on the previous loans has resulted in   continued dependence on foreign financial input.

Slow economic growth coupled with government’s lavish spending has pushed Pakistan deeper and deeper into the debt trap. Each successive government-civilian or military- prefers to have a gigantic administrative set-up. This is done in order to please the allied parties to prolong their rule. Irrespective of the burden on government treasury, government keeps on borrowing more and more to meet government official’s princely and lavish lifestyles.

The tax evaluation and collection systems in Pakistan leave much to be desired. The ratio of direct taxes is more than indirect taxes. Tax evasion is common. Only five percent of the total population, including the compulsory tax payers like salaried persons, pays taxes. The rich contrive to hoodwink the government and save billions by greasing the palms of the tax collectors   while the poor are forced to pay GST even on the purchase of a cup of tea.

Across the board accountability, which is the key note of good governance, is lacking in our country. No one in this country seems to be willing to consider himself or herself accountable to law. Everyone thinks it as his right to follow his whims, howsoever illegal the action may be. It is a sort of deluge which is engulfing our country and giving rise to myriads of problems. Politically motivated accountability is looked upon by the people as political victimization. The official machinery is almost jammed under the fear of their decisions coming up under the microscope of jaundiced accountability.

In the absence of across the board accountability, corruption has become rampant in our society. It has become so common that no one starting from the clerical staff to the highest officials is free from this disease. Corruption hurts the national economy by raising transaction costs. It also depresses the economic growth by lowering the public investment. Only a part of the amount of budget is spent on projects beneficial to the common man. The rest is embezzled by government functionaries and contractors.

Such mismanagement of funds and government’s incapability to maintain the prices of basic commodities within reasonable limits, is raising inflation and poverty. Poverty- crushed people are being further crushed with inflation. Their purchasing power is decreasing day by day and people are unable to make their both ends meet. Grain is getting beyond their reach. Along with it, unequal distribution of agricultural land, unfair distribution of income and increasing population are also responsible for this predicament.

Likewise, government’s inability to provide employment also depicts the picture of bad governance. Pakistan Steel Mill, Pakistan Railway and Pakistan International Airlines are some of the organizations which have turned into white elephants. Deteriorating conditions of agricultural and industrial sector due to government’s negligence are further adding to the unemployment. Rising unemployment is causing brain drain. While the educated youth who cannot afford to go out of the country, out of frustration, indulge in unsocial activities and enter the world of crimes and other evils. Drug addiction among the young has grown alarmingly.

Poverty and unemployment are pushing our country into the swamp of illiteracy. Because of poverty, the poor cannot afford to send their children to schools. And due to unemployment many people think, “What is the benefit of that education which cannot provide any respectable livelihood.” Furthermore, corruption is adding fuel to the fire. The education fund in Pakistan is 2% of National budget, but these funds are never fairly utilized for the betterment of education.

One of the most threatening problems which arise out of illiteracy is overpopulation. The population explosion in the country  has become a horrific nightmare which defeats the planners.  In addition to this, lack of family planning and implementation of population control policies are responsible for increasing population. Government seems to be totally unconcerned about the population control. Such indifference on the part of the government is greatly frustrating. Pakistan is almost touching 180 million mark. It is growing out to be the biggest threat to our survival after terrorism. Judicial activism has resulted in undue interference by the judiciary into the functioning of the government departments. Officers of the government have opted to applying brakes on the decision making.

Last but not least, the crises of water, energy and food appear as monstrous   disasters for Pakistan. All these crises, no doubt, are the products of poor governance. Water shortage can be attributed to Indian hegemony and government’s inability to utilize the available water resources efficiently. Water shortage has badly affected our agricultural sector and has also given birth to economy crisis. Heavy dependence on hydel-power and failure to utilize renewable resources have given our country a nasty blow in terms of energy production. It has also crippled our industrial sector. Furthermore, food crisis is another gift of bad governance. Feeding people is a national responsibility. Ministry of food is not doing its job. People are dying to get a bag of flour and they have to stand in lines for hours. Food shortage in an agricultural country is something quite unacceptable.

 Over all, the state of governance in our country is in shambles. No doubt, the running the country is fraught with complexity. Our enemy is using all resources and cunning to aggravate our difficulties. But, in spite of all, the affairs of the country can be dealt with. Sincere leadership with proper management can do wonders. The institutions need to resolve to stick within the bounds of their spheres of responsibility. It is never too late to mend. What is needed is the proper implementation of constitutional norms and policies. There is great political awakening among the masses. Let them exercise their right to vote freely. There would soon be emerging the Pakistan which was the cherished dream of Allama Iqbal and for which Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah struggled so long.

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