Challenges to governance -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Challenges to governance

Qaisar Rashid

Governance involves management of both public and private affairs. The control exercised by the government impacts equally on all spheres of people’s life.

In the case of Pakistan, there are a host of factors involved in provision of good governance to its people, and these are individually posing a challenge to the smooth running of the system.

Firstly, the feeling of insecurity has become ingrained in society. Even an ordinary event is viewed with skepticism as if it were either to undo Pakistan or to balkanise it. The fear, which is mostly unsubstantiated, prompts extraordinary decisions to be taken to “save Pakistan”. The cynicism also creates ad hocism in the running of the system. To add insult to injury, the failed-state syndrome haunts Pakistan at every turn. Consequently, an abnormal national psyche has developed which is disconcerting Pakistan. Perhaps, Pakistanis need a period of rehabilitation to get back to normal.

Secondly, religious extremism is mounting at an exponential rate, so is terrorism. Both illiteracy and over-population are becoming the bane of Pakistan’s existence. Uneducated youth, the consequent product of this, is cannon fodder for religious fanaticism. Religion has also become an area to take refuge in from the ever growing complex world of today: Religion should be a source of inspiration to live life rather than becoming a retreat. Society is in the throes of ignorance and obscurantism. Neither literacy nor population control seems national priority. No matter how much money is spent in a year on maintaining law-and-order in the country, the next year that spending needs to be increased, as each year more illiterate members join the adult section of society and swell the ranks of the unemployed and criminals.

Thirdly, a confrontation between institutions is prevailing. For instance, the government’s purposeful non-compliance with implementation of the decisions of the Supreme Court on various matters of national importance (including the NICL corruption case) is a point of concern. One reason for the defiant attitude of the government may be that there are fewer precedents on hand to revere the court and its decisions. Another reason may be that the negative atmosphere created by the NRO period. The higher judiciary is frustrated in its plans to end the trends of corruption in society. Consequently, there is surfacing a government-judiciary mismatch. By thwarting an oversight of the court, the government is trying to run its affairs, in which the top priority is to complete the tenure. Popularity of a political party (or its members) among the masses is considered a force to sabotage decisions of the court. The trickle-down effect of defiance is plaguing all sectors of governance.

Fourthly, incessant inflation is whittling away people’s savings. The Benazir Income Support Programme is to mitigate people’s financial woes, but no visible effort so far has been made to construct vocational institutes to develop skilled manpower. Apparently, the price control mechanism that has been put in place is flawed. The price of a commodity has been left up to the market forces to regulate. There is no intervention by the government in this process. That is where hoarders and cartels sneak in to capitalise on the situation.

Commodities are hoarded and an artificial market mechanism is fashioned to send prices spiralling when consumers are in need of them. For instance, the holy month of Ramadan is considered a month yielding high financial returns. Here, the economic factor overrides religious fervour. Further, the state mechanism of check and balance is fragile and financial exploiters evade accountability. What is required is action to the contrary. There is a need to equip people with the skills that could help them enhance their earnings.

Fifthly, the identity crisis is raging in society. Currently, the crisis is being reflected in the demand of division of provinces. One of the reasons of the crisis is centralisation of authority at the provincial level. The flip side of which is deprivation of local areas of politico-economic empowerment by keeping local governments absent. The lack of management at the local level engenders governance issues which make people chafe under misgovernance. The time is ripe for Pakistan to opt for participatory governance jettisoning the idea of governance through centralised government officers. At the local level, people should be empowered to take decisions on issues affecting them locally. Good policing is important but that should be secondary to the will of the people to manage their own affairs by becoming stakeholders in good governance.

Sixthly, politicians are facing problems in running the modern-day government. To dispense governance and deliver on electoral promises are proving to be two feeble areas of the incumbent government to tread. The vibrant electronic and print media is watchful to render the government answerable on these accounts. This was not the situation in the past. Politicians who are besieged by the feudal mindset think that the country can be run as a fiefdom. This is not the case. The process of running the government has now become a specialised job done by (or with the help of) subject specialists (and not by generalists). That is why to have at least a bachelor’s degree to contest for a provincial or national electoral seat is vital for the country to make progress. Modern-day governance calls for deliberations, research and innovations which are missing in the existing system.
Source: The News
Date:8/18/2011