Challenges to governance

Daily: The News
Date: 18.08.11

Governance involves the control 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.

First, the feeling of insecurity has got ingrained in society. Even an ordinary event is viewed
with skepticism as if it were either to undo Pakistan or to balkanize 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, is 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 the law and order situation 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. 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 – the foremost is to complete the tenure. Popularity of a political party (or its
members) in the masses is declared 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
Program is to mitigate people’s financial woes, but no visible effort has been so far made to
construct vocational institutes to develop a skilled man power that could fend for itself.
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 capitalize on
the situation. Commodities are hoarded and an artificial market mechanism is fashioned to
send prices spiraling 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 an 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 centralization 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 putrefied idea of governance through centralized government officers. At the local level,
people should be empowered to take decisions on issues affecting them locally. Assiduous
policing is important but that should be secondary to the will of the people to manage their
own affairs by becoming stake holders 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 around 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. To run the government has now become a specialized
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 to make the country progress. Modern day governance calls for deliberations,
research and innovations which are missing in the existing system.

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