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Reforms and institution building

Mohsin Saleem Ullah

The forefathers of Pakistan envisioned a country that could provide an environment free from corruption, inequality, injustice, economic grievances and other evils that might affect the governance of a newly born state. Pakistan inherited limited financial resources at the time of independence, however, it succeeded in establishing well-functioning executive departments in a strong military that worked independently in its realm. With time, as the provinces expanded geographically and new administrative units were defined, the provincial governments began experiencing unprecedented political, security, and socio-economic issues which called for federal intervention. Hence, it created a political rift amongst the different organs of the state, owing to their undefined constitutional limits.

The World Bank has defined good governance as, “how power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development. By this definition, we can infer that the presence of the rule of law, safeguard of human rights and the existence of an honest and efficient government, accountability, transparency, predictability and openness are the indicators of the good governance found in developed states.

However, the situation is to the contrary in Pakistan, which is amongst the overly legislated countries but has an ineffective implementation of its laws. Every year hundreds of cases of rape, domestic violence and honour killing are reported across the country, but no quick remedy is provided to the victim’s family, as was evident in the Noor Mukkadam case. Despite having stringent laws with punitive measures, the victims fail to get speedy justice, owing to a lengthy and slow judicial process because of a high volume of backlog that has been lingering in courts for decades. Pakistan is a pioneer of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, but human rights abuses are rampant in the Balochistan region, especially the violent killing of the ethnic-religious minority group of Shia Hazara community which has been targeted by religious fanatics for decades. No effort is made at the national level to promote inclusiveness to ensure their political participation, ameliorate socio-economic conditions by providing them economic opportunities and help elevate their social standard through public awareness campaigns. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s unsatisfactory performance in the situation, and being inattentive to its present crisis have raised questions over its governance issues.

Good governance entails the participation of public, and political stakeholders in a broad range of activities, and in policy formulation through which people can express their opinion in favour or against any action of the government. Equity and inclusion of all people in a society, regardless of their gender, caste, creed, sects, and religious affiliation provides an equal opportunity to all members of society. It’s a democratic way of empowering citizens to have their voice in government-owned initiates including an opportunity for them to choose a leader of their choice through voting, which becomes controversial each year due to a lack of transparency.

For Pakistan to mitigate the governance crisis, there is a dire need to fix fundamental issues in its democratic system. A fully empowered local government is only possible through relegating provincial administrative powers to local government and re-distributing them to different administrative levels. This would enhance working coordination among different hierarchies and preclude from consolidating power on one hand, and ameliorate the efficiency of the government, increase its response time for taking quick action, and facilitate public access to information. Corrupt officials, politicians, and businessmen are found escaping through the accountability process in Pakistan, despite its own National Accountability Bureau. Pakistan’s executive, since its independence has had strained relations with the military, owing to past regimes interference in governing the country; however, these relations need to be based on harmony, mutual interests and for the betterment of Pakistan and its people, which is only possible by improving coordination and developing respect for each other’s domain. Education is the backbone of a country—to elevate its literacy level, which serves as a medium to spread awareness and enlighten members of society. For a society to eradicate corruption, social vices, and other malpractices, a government must dispense quality education to its citizens. Besides its numerous benefits, another key importance of education is its role in creating a productive workforce of a country that is required to support Pakistan’s dwindling economy.

Good governance is achievable, and its crisis is avoidable by following good indicators and formulating policies that are aimed for resolving issues and addressing the growing concerns of all stakeholders.