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Sunday, January 29, 2023

All about the ‘ Crowns ‘ and ‘ Clowns ‘

Dr. Farid A Malik, Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation makes an interesting argument on how Pakistani bureaucracy is the crown that makes a fool out of their civilians, therefore, describing them as clowns. He further explains this concept from his own personal experiences.

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I was inspired to write this article after hearing about the suffering of the family of the first Prime Minister  ( PM ). Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. The heirs of Shaheed-e-Millat are in dire straits in a country that was ably and honestly led by their forefathers. The Settlement and Rehabilitation ( S&R ) Department was shut down through an ordinance in 1974 as most cases had been resolved. Records were transferred to the Board of Revenue ( BOR ) for unsettled cases only. BOR has failed to provide relief to the PM’s family.

While the compere in the TV program termed it as a punishment for creating and serving the new land, the grandson pointed out the hardships faced by the common citizen. Indeed the people of Pakistan are treated like ‘ Clowns ‘ by the bureaucracy that behaves like the ‘ Crown ‘. I have personally dealt with this rogue department which is currently headed by a member of the PML-N loyalist family of the Ex-President, Rafiq Tarrar. About whom the famous columnist one and only Ardeshir Cowasjee wrote that as judge of the Lahore High Court, Tarrar Sahib decided only two cases which were subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. As a judge, he does not have a single citation in the PLD.

Read more: Declining performance of bureaucracy in Pakistan

Looking back in the day

Despite the fact that the  S&R department was shut down in 1974, the BOR issued a directive in the year 2014 to the Sub-registrar that no property transaction should take place without verification of documents by the department. In other words, all the settled cases were now open to review.

A cumbersome procedure was initiated for this purpose. The applicants were required to submit a written request with supporting documents to the Secretary S&R who then asked the Patwari to confirm possession followed by a review of the Verification Committee which was rarely met. The process takes years as nothing moves in the land of the pure without wheels. As an affectee of this abuse, I requested a copy of this directive issued in 2014.

Despite several meetings, promises and reminders the letter could not be traced. Finally, I approached the Punjab Information Commission for a copy of this ill-fated directive. A written affidavit was submitted by the Deputy Secretary about the unavailability of their own communication. A department that cannot trace its own document of 2014, has ventured to verify the century-old record of 1914, it raises a lot of questions that no one is willing to answer including the SMBR ( Senior Member Board of Revenue ). Only ‘ Clowns ‘ can be pushed around in this manner.

Read more: The rotten bureaucracy of Pakistan and its love of leisure and dogs!

The post office venture

Though we inherited the bureaucracy of the ‘ Crown ‘ in August 1947 most officers treated the public with respect and provided genuine relief. In the decade of the sixties, I had an interesting experience.  My late father paid Token Tax for his car in a Post Office located on Dhani Ram Road off Anarkali. There was a case of cash bungling which was being investigated. The Post Office requested all its clients to submit their Registration Books for verification purposes. Another letter was issued to the Excise and Taxation Department for the issuance of a duplicate book. I was instructed by my Old Man to deliver the book as requested, my protest was overruled.

I insisted that the Post Office should first arrange for the duplicate before taking in the originals but social responsibility was high on the agenda of that generation that had struggled for the land of the pure, I delivered the book and then went to the Excise Department for the duplicate. They had a big laugh and treated me like a  ‘ Clown ‘ who had parted with his original documents. Mad as hell.

Read more: How bureaucracy of Pakistan could have reformed?

I went running to the Post Office and demanded the return of the original book but was again shrugged off like a  ‘ Clown ‘. Dejected by the maltreatment, I went home. As always my father was a man of crisis, he wrote a letter to the Post Master General which I personally carried. The Sub Post Master was summoned to explain his position. The  ‘ Holy Crown ‘ came to my rescue, I was treated with respect. Orders were issued for the immediate return of my original documents.

Introduction of Passport reforms

In the decade of the seventies, the elected government of Bhutto introduced passport reforms. Restrictions imposed by the  ‘ Crown ‘ for the  ‘ Clowns ‘ were removed. As Interior Minister Khan Qayyum Khan personally visited Passport Offices to ensure compliance. As I had plans for higher education, I applied by mail for my first passport in the year 1975. After two weeks I received a letter that the passport was ready to be picked up but with a request for in person collection. Riding high on my new status of an equal citizen, I replied that I cannot spare so much time as I was busy with my studies. A very polite letter followed ensuring me of prompt service.

Recently I went to the Director’s office, who offered me a cup of tea and handed over my document to explore the world on my own without the permission of the  ‘ Crown ‘. It was because of this facility that Pakistanis traveled all over the world and are now the main source of our foreign exchange earnings. Unfortunately, this freedom was short lived and the country was plunged into the Zia Dark Ages in July 1977. The  ‘ Crown ‘ took control, enslavement was restarted all over again since then we have been treated again like the  ‘  Clowns ‘.

Read more: Is a bloated bureaucracy responsible for Pakistan’s fiscal deficit?

Punishment for creating the new land continues unabated even after over seven decades of so-called independence. Under the rule of the  ‘ Crown ‘, the  ‘ Clowns ‘continue to suffer. It is not only the family of the first PM that is being punished, every Pakistani is feeling the heat. BOR is an important department, let the crusade of  ‘ Decrowning ‘  start from here. In my last meeting with the SMBR, when I pointed out the follies of the department,  I was told that we have to defend the decisions of our officers, in other words, the sufferings of the  ‘ Clowns ‘ do not matter. The king is dead, ‘ Long live the King ‘.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.