Spearhead Opinion – 20.07.2018
Corruption has been and continues to be the buzzword as the country braces for elections and hopefully a new chapter in its roller coaster history. Corruption has been the main plank for the election campaign of at least one aspiring Prime Minister and he insists that it was his dogged stubbornness that has landed the former PM and his daughter in jail. The question is that these developments may assuage the anger of a disappointed nation but are all our problems going to be resolved? Unfortunately, not. A new chapter in our history will begin only when we try and understand the real reasons behind the situation today.
The PPP government in the period 2008-20013 may have taken several positive steps but it also set in motion negative trends that endure. Appointments even ambassadorial ones were made at the whim of the ‘competent authority’ without a regard for merit or suitability. The bureaucracy remained politicized. This was also true of the Police and all civil investigative agencies. The office of the Chairman Senate, the Speaker National Assembly and the Governors of the four provinces were all politicized. There was no attempt made to create a structure for decision making that could lead to harmony in civil-military relations—in fact several steps were taken that damaged the relationship with unfortunate consequences. The cumulative effect of all these actions was devastating and served to undermine the credibility of the government—a sure recipe for the military to pull back and act to safe guard national interests. The people now arrested, being investigated and blamed for corruption and misgovernance are the ones who were given responsibilities far beyond their talents and for reasons other than competence.
The PML(N) government that followed in 2013 had a disastrous downfall though it managed to complete its tenure. The PM and his family faced court proceedings on their personal financial issues but they chose to politicize these and the PML(N) as a party became embroiled enthusiastically to the extent that a smooth change of PM’s led to the new PM avowing his loyalty to the disqualified PM by saying that he was not the PM. The PML(N) lost the chance to turn a new page and their ousted leaders’ confrontational stance led to difficulties and an unfortunate result. More important for the nation are the actions that had negative effects on the country. Early on the PM opted to work without Foreign and Defence Ministers-an inexplicable decision that created serious problems. A Finance Minister was appointed on the basis of family ties and loyalty completely ignoring the fact that the country need an economic and finance expert with impeccable credentials and an international image. The result is there to see. None of the negative trends set in motion by the previous government were reversed.
Unfortunately, besides carrying on with the negative steps by the previous government all those were taken to new heights and many of those thus favored are now in the dock. In spite of criticism, ambassadorial and other appointments were not made on merit and in fact, persons with dubious reputations ended up heading, financial and regulatory mechanisms thereby creating a corrupt environment and a lack of governance. The civil-military relationship went south after some totally unnecessary and controversial actions dragged in the media. A belated NSC was created under an NSA but was seldom used for decision making. Parliament attendance fell off and hardly any important issues got debated. No structural changes were made and nor were independent bodies created to address economic, financial and security issues. Military led and supported initiatives like the National Action Plan and Apex Committees fell by the wayside and highly successful internal security operations were never followed up with consolidation. All this coupled with an absence of governance once again created a credibility problem and the military showing extraordinary patience and restraint concentrated on the national interest of the country.
Herein lies a lesson that needs to be learnt. Corruption is not the behemoth destroying us—it’s the intention—stupid. If the new government comes in with an agenda of payback to all those who helped it win then we are in for people in slots where they should not be—all appointments should be on the basis of merit and competence. If it chooses to put the military in its place, then we are familiar with the likely result—the military will be in its place when an elected government gains credibility through governance and performance. If it fails to create and sustain structures for decision making, policy making and review and above all for economic and financial policies then we will continue to be debt and deficit ridden—limping along to survive. The nation needs visible austerity and dedication at the top. It wants to be in the hands of competent and credible people. It needs the bureaucracy to be a backbone not a boneless spine and it wants law enforcement that serves the people not its masters. The Senate Chairman and NA Speaker and the governors need to be politically neutral. In short what is needed is effective impartial governance after a review of all our representatives abroad and all in positions of authority in every sphere. Once this is achieved corruption will be sidelined. And we will have a future.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)