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Wake up Pakistan ! Presently the Muslim societies are in a state of ideological confusion and flux. Materialism, terrorism,...
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Bad Governance & Democracy
Let me start with the famous remark made by Winston Churchill on democracy: “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” It is quite common in Pakistan to see people complaining against democratic governments over every major or minor issue. There is widespread public disappointment with the performance of governments today, but this has always been the case whenever we have had elected governments. Let us acknowledge, with open minds, that dynastic leaders, parties, the electoral elite, political families and powerful political groups, in every region of Pakistan, have very few achievements and little success to show to the public. They are long and strong on rhetoric and very short and weak on performance.
One more thing in our social and democratic context is very important, which is also true for other Muslim majority societies, i.e., the solid connection between misrule and rise of extremism, terrorism and militant ethno-nationalism. Misrule is perhaps a polite and benign expression for the massive plunder of Pakistan by the ruling elite, often elected on the strength of illegal monies and strong political networks they have created. Most of the ruling elite have little respect for the people of this land or any real interest in the development of this society. They are here for the easy money they can make and when the going gets a little tough, they escape to their safe havens abroad — and live in peace, prosperity and happiness.
The rise of radicalism in every Muslim society has been a real cause of the neglect of education, rule of law, good universal values and governance. Unlawful behaviour of the elite and the immunity they enjoy through their power and political clout, have in turn produced many forms of illegalities in society. The deterioration of values, decline of institutions and weakening of laws and their implementation have spread to every part of society. Political catchwords like ‘we have done nothing wrong’ and ‘no court has convicted us’ tell us more about the failure of the system of accountability than the innocence of all famous and infamous political players of the country. Their conduct in power has created a vacuum of ethical legitimacy that has been effectively exploited by radical ideology, which argues that the failure of the ruling elite is actually the ‘failure’ of Western democracy, and that elected public figures are nothing but ‘tools’ of Western powers.
Add to this pervasive social discourse and popular narratives at the lower levels of society is the problem posed by our young population that is without adequate, let alone good education, and has limited employment opportunities and avenues for personal progress. Indeed, these are all serious problems that may continue to pull Pakistan down. Ignoring these problems, which are often associated with democracy and ‘democrats’, is not an option anymore.
What is the alternative to bad democracy? Frankly speaking, none. After four military interventions and more than four democratic movements as well as the restoration of the Constitution, democracy has emerged as a ‘default position’ for Pakistan. Our institutional endowment for democracy is far stronger than any other Muslim state’s, and we have a long history of development of political and state institutions going back to colonial times.
We have the means to improve conditions under democratic rule, and we know how others have transformed bad democracies into good ones. Chief among them is public awareness, which is better than before. We have laws and institutions that need to be strengthened and should be made to work in the areas of accountability and rule of law. Pakistan’s future progress, order, stability and coherence depend on good democracy.
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais: The writer is a professor of political science at LUMS
By Imtiaz Gul:
The Pakistani media has been awash with heated debates over the ‘unconstitutionality’ of the concerns on good governance that General Raheel Sharif conveyed during the November 10 Corps Commanders’ conference. Opposition members of parliament pounced upon the army chief’s advice in order to settle scores with the government. The discourse in the media clearly stemmed from the civilian government’s displeasure over the advice coming from a “constitutionally subordinate institution”.
But was this really something unusual given Pakistan for decades has been guided by the military establishment and an erratic, self-serving civilian ruling elite? Certainly not. So, why all the fuss? Let us first see how the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific defines good governance. It describes it as “decision-making by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”. It also identifies eight major characteristics that constitute good governance: a system that is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. Can the federal and provincial governments claim they are following all or some of these ingredients of good governance? The answer is largely in the negative on many counts.
Despite Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s rosy projections, Pakistan is ranked a lowly 138 out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 ranking. Has the government elevated or jolted the confidence of multinationals already operating in a fragile situation? We understand that the FBR is acting like a ‘robber baron’ to extract funds for its IMF-dictated resource mobilisation campaign. In a high-handed, unbecoming manner, individuals and businesses are being asked to cough up funds to meet IMF demands. This state of affairs will certainly not encourage foreign investments, nor will other countries remove travel advisories for those of their citizens intending to visit Pakistan.
The recent Midterm Report Card for Members of National Assembly (MNA), launched by Alif Ailaan, states that only three out of a total of 272 elected MNAs managed an overall ‘A’ grade in the scorecard for progress in terms of school facilities, student retention, gender parity and the student-teacher ratio in public schools of their constituencies. So much for the democrats’ love and commitment to education! Has the Model Town case of 2014 or the Kasur child sexual abuse case been resolved to the satisfaction of the aggrieved? What steps have been taken so far to review and amend the dated Criminal Procedure Code or the 1861 Police Act — both being at the root of low conviction rates, heavy pendency and unreasonably protracted trials often to the disadvantage of the poor and the victims?
Has the Punjab government followed principles of transparency, fairness and the rule of law when approving funds for the Orange Line project or for the security of the Sharif family in Jati Umra? Removal of reluctant government officials and replacing them with yes men certainly doesn’t bespeak good governance. Hospitals, even in provincial and federal capitals, are extremely short on critical, life-saving vaccines and equipment, such as ventilators. Hospital administrations have to wait for months to get petty amounts approved, while pregnant women are forced to give birth on the stairs of hospitals. On the other hand, the bureaucracy and chief ministers hardly waste a minute in approving tens of millions for their own security, with some 2,751 police officials already in the service of the entire Sharif family. Is this good governance? Has the government transparently resolved fiascos such as the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park and Nandipur project? Or do ‘democrats’ believe that the poor man’s vote makes them accountable for their deeds?
The list of such questions is endless and this obligates civilian rulers to handle the poor man’s trust, i.e., votes, with some sincerity. All stakeholders — politicians, bureaucracy, the military, media and the civil society — are supposed to raise concerns when there are administrative lapses and legal deviations, more so in a culture where abuse of power and deviation from the rule of law are norms. Votes from the public do not give our rulers the carte blanche for arbitrary and self-serving governance. Questions, like the ones raised by General Raheel, will continue to be asked as long as rulers continue to abhor the rule of law and transparency.
The writer heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and is author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate