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Unpacking the governance debate -by Raza Rumi

If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance then this is at best a delusional goal
Recent weeks have witnessed a supercilious debate on how the current government’s misgovernance is a potent reason to boot it out. Governance is about decisions, resources and management of public affairs. The sad reality is that Pakistan’s media now controls and spins the public discourse on these issues. The popular media never wanted this government to begin with. Since 2007, it sided with the ‘clean’ and morally correct lawyers’ movement that presented an alternative to the corrupt politicians and shunned the 2008 election. First, it vilified Benazir Bhutto for making a deal with the Generals on initiating a transition towards a power-sharing arrangement. This was a classic worldview of the urban middle class, which has never been a keen participant of the messy electoral politics that brings rural politicians with fake degrees at the helm of affairs.
The second critical moment was the election of the President, which sparked an unprecedented media trial with stories (mostly unsubstantiated) of Zardari’s corruption. There was a strong alliance between the local and the global media churning out a thousand stories highlighting his insanity, fallibility and venality. This happened despite the full confidence expressed by Zardari’s party and its allies. A rare federal consensus over the election of a President was undermined and the media perception intensified how all the crooks stand together to rob the country once again.
Now the third moment in the aftermath of the floods has arrived; and the high-pitched voices against the politicians have reached their peak. The charge-sheet is long but, in a nutshell, states that the feudal politicians were inept in handling the July-August 2010 disaster and harmed the poor to save their lands. This is a simplistic conclusion that has emerged without proper inquiry and mainly through anecdotes from the urban anchors visiting rural victims and interpreting their anguish as a condemnation of the politicos.
Discussions around regime change have strongly articulated the displeasure of the unelected institutions of the state on ‘governance’. The media has faithfully reported that the Army is unhappy about the corrupt ministers still in office and the looming economic crisis. The Judiciary is perturbed, as its judgement on NRO remains partially unimplemented and key appointments reek of illegality. The perennial power-seeker class of politicians has started to reconfigure the political landscape while fringe parties like Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf and the right wing Jamaat-e-Islami want to seize this opportunity for short term gains. The ever-ready crop of technocrats is also getting anxious due to the anonymous contacts being made by the invisible elements of the state.
This display of crass opportunism by Pakistan’s traditional elites is nothing new. Since 1947 (including that fateful year), they have cared little for the ordinary citizens. But the alarming aspect of our present dilemma is the way Pakistan’s much-touted free media has become an instrument in spurring political instability. The endemic problem with Pakistan’s governance is that regardless of the government in power, the state (if we were to include all the dominant classes in the wider definition) remains disconnected and disengaged with the citizens. What is more worrying is that the state no longer is a monolith as it has delegated the state’s monopoly powers to faith-based militant groups which are ready to exploit its increasing inability to ‘govern’.
With 20 million people still struggling to reclaim their livelihoods, entitlements (such as land), shelter and security, Pakistan’s establishment and its politicians are all but willing to do anything about it. It is therefore problematic to see a legitimately elected government preparing a summary on NRO cases for 34 out of 8,000 beneficiaries and the Supreme Court chiding it like an accused party. Or, to read about the panicky meetings of the PPP while the latter should be strategising about re-enacting the NDMA legislation or preparing a resource mobilisation strategy to rehabilitate the flood victims and reconstruct the damaged infrastructure.
Equally disturbing is to witness the saga of Courts in effect suspending new Constitutional provisions while they are expressly not mandated to do that; and placing abstract notions of people’s will above the Constitution. In a similar vein, the Army has a separate fund for flood relief and the elected Public Accounts Committee cannot be given the details of how and why a Rs 5 billion supplementary grant was given to the country’s premier intelligence agency.
The argument on misgovernance by a coalition government is bogus when unelected institutions of the state are unaccountable, non-transparent and unwilling to accept the oversight of public representatives. Until the Army budgets can be audited, and judges are appointed through parliamentary commissions and the bureaucracy is answerable to legislature, we will continue to swirl in a vicious cycle of political instability.
If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance, then this is at best a delusional goal. Pakistan cannot afford another upheaval and the recent signals by the Army that it wants stability are welcome. But then Pakistan is an unpredictable polity with a growing constituency for suicide missions. Strange times, indeed.

Source : Pak Tea House

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Junaid Qaiser

6 Comments

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  • The present choatic situation of paksitan proves the failure of the government. Although pakistan is gifted with all types natural services, still the masses are living in misery. Pakistan is very young country as it’s been around for 63 years as an independent nation. If we look at the economy of this country, 45% are farmers and 55% are engaged in all kinds of services and industries. Pakistan is one of the world largest producers of cotton. There is a strong textile industry throughout the country. It is an overwhelmingly Islamic country yet a democratic state. On the one hand around 40% children do not go to schools but at the same time there are segments of population highly educated. Pakistan has produced Silicon Valley IT experts, doctors, engineers and bankers who are working all around the world including Europe and America. There are more than 20 thousands doctors working in United States of America. Having said that, pakistan has the potential to be developed nation but the problem lies on the leadership side. For the prosperity, it is necessary to respect the merit and eradicate corruption. But again the question rises that how would this happen and who is going to take initiative. The answer to this question is unknown.

  • Pakistan is surrounded by extremely troubled and chaotic circumstances. The whole nation has realized that the present system has completely failed. People are seen talking harsh words against current government who is unable to provide any facility to relieve the poor people, instead they are busy in making money and safeguarding their own intersts.The whole nation stands together at one point ‘’The Change’. There are uncountable voices in circulation. The shouts for change are increasing in number by every passing day. Some ask for the change in Governing regime, others demand the change of  whole system, few more others demand the change in policies. It is becoming more and more evident that The Change is going to happen around us in many aspects at some stage not far from today

  • Today the world knows Pakistan as a country with excessive corruption and pathetic under-performance of the state institutions. The world wonders what type democracy Pakistan has. Unfortunately the state is captured by small band of corrupt political elite which has the control over the resources of the country. This corrupt system compels people to become cynical and alienated from politics and the state which literally implies alienation from Pakistan.

  • The political culture in Pakistan has made corruption a household name. This is very unfortunate that everyone is involved in this termite in one way or the other. The present regime is famous for dealings which are never clean. A reputable international organization reported that the corruption reached its new levels in comparison to the previous regime. The current flood is nothing less than a tsunami crisis that has destroyed a major part of the country. The unreliable reputation of the regime has proven to be a might hindrance to get relief funds from all over the world. Nobody is ready to hand over the funds to the present rulers of the country. The trust is deficit is clearly visible which is deriving the flood-victims of the relief aid. Recently the two words; destruction and trust deficit ; have dominated the media. On one side a large-scale destruction throughout the country is being reported and on the other side the lack of trust on the present regime by international community is making headlines.

  • It is very unfair when the western world perceives Pakistan economy as bankrupt. Ye Pakistan economy is turned down due to global economic crisis and ongoing war on terror. At the same time it should not be ignored that Pakistan happens to be located at the crossroads of three regions namely Middle East, central asia and south asia which makes it very important spotted country in geographic terms. It has the potential to become the crossroads of opportunities for the people. Pakistan is country with around one million military. To understand why the country has such a large army, it is important look at the socio-political scenario of the country. At the time of independence Pakistan was craved out of India so there was insecurity that there were people in india who may want to undo Pakistan. That perception of insecurity made Pakistan develop a strong military to guarantee the safety and sovereignty of Pakistan. Even today majority of Pakistanis are fearful that India is still a threat to the state of Pakistan. Military and nukes are the only reason that has contained India from elimination Pakistan. Meanwhile, there are people in Pakistan who think that India and Pakistan should develop cooperative relations for the prosperity of the people living in both the countries. India and Pakistan need to work out their differences over Kashmir, water issues and across the border intrusions. Time for war is gone as both the countries are nuclear powers and they can afford to go to war. War means total destruction for both the countries. There are more important things to do than going to war. India and Pakistan face similar problems when it comes to poverty, illiteracy and under development. Both countries have huge segments of population that lives under the poverty line. The cooperation between these two most happening countries can lead them to new levels of prosperity. Pakistan is one most diverse Muslim majority countries in the world as it has several ethnic groups and languages. Taliban are the second generation of mujahideen that fought against soviet in Afghanistan during the cold war. In Pakistan Taliban exist is a very small minority. But they are dangerous because they are highly trained and possess sophisticated arms.

  • With a new Pakistani government in place, a new approach to international relations is being folowed . Pakistan and US need to get together more closer. The two countries are allies against war on terror whereas paksitan’s role is significantly vital. Pakistan’s elected governnment recognizes that fighting terrorism is something paksitan needs to do for itself not just as a favour to US. There is some legacy of amercian mistrust on pakistani intelligence that is being overcomed. Pakistan can not afford to let terrorist attack the people of pakistan or people of any other country and the policy is being focused on not letting the paksitani land be used to attack other countries. Pakistan has done a lot in the fight agaist terror but most of time do not get enough credit for it hwich is very disappointing. It is very frequently said that the Bush administration geve 10 bn dollars to pakistan but nobody talks about the economic and human loss that pakistan suffered being an ally on war on terror. The loss is much more than the aid US gave to pakistan. Fighting terrorism is a global cause and the government has deprived militants of the people’s support that they gained in the name of jihad. The world realizes that there is chaotic situation in the country when they see suicide bombing, poverty and million of refugees in swat and other parts of the country. If we look at the thousands of displaced people in swat, it shoes that the people are actually very mobilized and see Taliban as a threat. United states was very generous to give money to military regime but now it is time for America to be generous to give money to help Pakistanis in their time of suffering. America should realize that by improving the lives of poor in Pakistan could be helpful to win the war on terror.In the past , major share of the aid-money never reached to the needy people becasue it was taken by corrupt officials. Pakistan’s rulers are the richest in the world but the people are the poorest in the world. Having a look at the assets of two major leaders ,namely Asif zardari and Nawaz sharif , it can be found that they are amonsgt the richest politicla leaders of the world. While giving money US needs to make sure that the money goes to those who need it. It is compulsary to make sure that the money given to paksitani government is used appropriately and honestly. But I don’t see it as a possibility.