GOOD GOVERNANCE – THE WAY FORWARD
Nazim F. Haji
Good governance (GG) has become a buzz word in Pakistan and is used commonly to describe the state of affairs in government institutions, be they at the Federal, Provincial or Local level. What is governance? In ordinary language, it is management.
Unlike the countless of columns written by experts/professionals on issues directly or indirectly concerned with governance, I would rather focus on SOLUTIONS and THE WAY FORWARD.
However, to emphasize the need of GG, it would be appropriate to highlight the problems being faced by the people – unemployment, inflation, lack of basic necessities viz housing, education, health, public transport – do I need to elaborate?
Switching from GG to the more understandable term GM (Good Management) requires us to adhere to certain basic parameters, which are, MERITOCRACY, ADEQUATE COMPENSATION linked to KPIs/ACCOUNTABILITY and AUTHORITY with RESPONSIBILITY. But this is not enough. I would like to see Corporate Pakistan at all the three tiers of government – Federal, Provincial and Local levels. This is so obvious and sounds like music to the ears but the reader has a right to question, HOW? Well the answer is simple but not so simple either.
Let’s look at our STATE STRUCTURE which we call a FEDERATION. A Federation which has one province – the Punjab which is larger than the other three combined (in terms of population). This unbalanced state structure is not sustainable; again obviously, an impression of DOMINATION (which is a fact) and a feeling of DEPRIVATION (not so factual in Sindh & KPK but definitely so in Balochistan).
The solution lies in the creation of more provinces. I will not venture to suggest a number because this is a matter of research based on socio-economic and political issues/ reasoning. However, it should be emphatically clear that the creation of more provinces is a political process and cannot be architecturally imposed. As a start, this issue should be brought out in the open through the media – print, electronic and social. The Federal Government should initiate the process and take up this matter in the National Assembly and Senate, followed by the Provincial Assemblies; and also in the Council of Common Interests (CCI), public opinion should be sought from experts by holding discussions on TV channels and interactive public hearings via ZOOM.
It is pertinent to mention here that the legislation and administrative restructuring, to add Southern Punjab as a separate province is already on the cards. This begs the question, why the delay in implementation? The sooner, the better, as this would serve as a pilot project and various unforeseen problems would come to light. Even if the newly created province is not fully autonomous, there will be a lot of lessons to be learnt. As stated earlier, the process of devolution, decentralization and distribution of powers is a political process and needs to be organically and gradually adjusted to the ground realities – the sole objective being the socio-economic welfare of the people.
Coming to the next tier of government, the most important one, is the LOCAL GOVERNMENT. This is where the actual service delivery takes place. This may be categorized in 3 main classes viz METROPOLITAN, CITY and TOWN governments. Further down the ladder would be the COUNCILS. Let us now examine the need of this tier and understand its importance; the example of Karachi would be worth considering.
Karachi, a metropolis of Sindh, has a population of 16,051,521 (census 2017) which is more than 128 countries of the world where there are full-fledged all powerful federal governments. Now, one can understand why Karachi is in shambles, a broken down city with garbage all around and virtually non-existent low cost housing, education and health facilities and NO PUBLIC TRANSPORT. Inspite of these adversities, the Karachiites have shown great resilience – oops! and how can we forget those decades of political violence; Karachi keeps on bouncing back. It is the commercial capital of Pakistan and its financial and industrial hub; generating more than 50% of the federal and more than 90% of the provincial revenues. KARACHI DESPERATELY NEEDS AN EMPOWERED METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT.
Pakistan is not a poor country, it is a poorly managed country. One feels ashamed when our leaders have to go around the world with a begging bowl. Good governance should not be a political rhetoric. All the political parties (clearly spelt out in their manifestos) are committed to decentralization, devolution and distribution of powers between the various tiers of government. It is about time they deliver. Alternatively, the civil society – the professionals, the industrialists, the traders, the media, the unions and the NPOs; should frame a CITIZEN’S CHARTER and hammer it home in an organized and civilized manner.
Finally, “the youth (25 to 45 years old) have a special role to play. It is their future and the country’s future, for better or for worse, rests on their young shoulders. And the youth of Pakistan have the purity of intent to learn to do what it takes to ensure increasingly better outcomes and thereby end the betrayal of their country and their future” (‘A country betrayed’ by Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi).