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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The matter of governance

There has been a lot of talk about how bad governance has been during the outgoing government’s term in office. But how does a government govern from its seat of governance? Obviously, with the help of instruments of governance. And what are these instruments? The civil service, the police, the judiciary and the armed forces. A top civil servant in the mid-1980s told me that if all the summaries moved by his colleagues for consideration of the cabinet, the ECC or the NEC were made public, most who authored these would be lynched by the public in public. According to a former interior minister, he told General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in early 2000 that it was next to impossible for a minister to dip his hand in the official till without the active cooperation of the secretary in charge of the ministry and then he (the minister) gave the general the list of secretaries, who had served his ministry during his tenure, a good number of whom were in or out of service army men. The general, for obvious reasons, made no further inquiries and recruited the services of the politician on the spot!
The late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the super-duper civil servant of the 1980s, was known for his financial honesty but not for his intellectual integrity. That he had a very low economic IQ would certainly be affirmed by many. He had almost closed down the Karachi export processing zone right at a time when China was opening up Shenzhen! Despite being a financially honest man, by the time he left Wapda, the Authority had become infested with corruption to the core. The generals that followed him in the Authority milked it so dry that by the late 1980s, no multilateral aid agency was prepared to fund its power projects.
The rot in the civil service had started setting in by the time Mr Khan was elevated to the position of president. Exceptions to the rule notwithstanding, the civil service presently attracts only those who wish to make a bundle on the side. Most make money by selling to interested parties, strategic information about our national endeavours. And I don’t think anybody would controvert the claim that most of the ‘lucrative’ thanas in the country, especially in the urban areas, are auctioned among police officers. In the rural areas, it is the thaneydar who rules through the terror of his uniform and extorts protection money from both the poor and the rich. The intelligence agencies keep files full of innovative and invented skeletons of politicians and use the information for blackmailing purposes or to plant them on the gullible media, when and if their masters want to malign any politician or a group of politicians. The less said about the declining professionalism in the armed forces the better.
So, that is the kind of instruments of governance that the successive governments in this country have been burdened with since at least the mid-1980s. And that perhaps, is the biggest reason behind what is termed as bad governance, especially during the last 59 months. This is not to say that the politicians who ruled the country during this period were all innocent. But let us not miss the forest because of the trees.
Even to hold free, fair and impartial elections, we need to have clean civil servants manning the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Otherwise, those who are today serving as instruments of governance in the ECP would only do what they have been doing all these years — rig elections and manipulate their results to help saddle those who paid them the most. It is officers of this type who create controversies where there should have been none. The pre-requisite of a degree is no more there for the coming elections. These officers were also aware of how the Supreme Court had acted in the case of Mr Jamshed Dasti, who after having been found out to have submitted a fake degree to contest the 2008 polls, was allowed after he had resigned from his seat, by both the SC and the ECP, to contest the by-polls. Still, the man who wrote the letter to so many parliamentarians, including the leader of the opposition, in a highly provocative language, one feels, simply wanted to entangle the chief election commissioner in an unnecessary controversy.