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Friday, April 19, 2024

Deliverance from Disorder?

Lt Gen(Retd) Tariq Khan emphasizes the need to prioritize public service, good governance, and autonomy, while addressing political challenges and proposing solutions for national wellbeing.

“Public servants should focus on serving the public – not any special interest group, and good governance should be an expectation – not an exception”

-Abigail Spanberger

My views on bringing in a technocrat government were well known and widely circulated but were summarily rejected by almost every walk of society. I resigned myself to the backbench on the matter of governance and surrendered to what appeared to be a popular will, (not necessarily the correct one). I put my ideas on a backburner awaiting the arrival of the appropriate moment to revisit the concept to whenever its need would be felt again. Those who were inclined to agree with my hypothesis about a technocrat government, generally opposed the idea only because they could not find a way in how to bring it about. My theories about how a military initiative in this vein or a judicial one or then even a combination of both, never convinced anyone that it was the right way forward.

Challenges of the Democratic Order and the PTI’s Mandate

My continued insistence and the rational proffered arguing in favour of a technocrat government lay in the unambiguous recognition, that the then existing democratic order was limited by its vested interests, lacked the autonomy and was much too weak to undertake the reforms needed by the country. However, giving in to popular demand, one felt, that with PTI and its huge popular following, it would be able to acquire the mandate to undertake the reforms necessary to go forward. That was not to be, and it was primarily so, because the PTI itself was a coalition and could never enjoy the sovereign independence that a political process needs for radicle changes to the polity of the nation.

I recognise that the PTI remains the most popular political entity and if allowed back into power, may be able to change the destiny of this country but PTI is now no longer in power. On the other hand, one is convinced, that no improvement in governance, administration, services, or judicial system is possible through the political process – democracy, as we see it, has become part of the problem now and can never be the route to a political solution, at least, till we see a change in attitude and posture in the political system.

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I had recognized and identified this malaise in the individual lives of our people, in the nation that we live in and the country that we have given our allegiance to, as early as in 2016, when I voiced my unqualified opinion in Arshad Sharif’s show on TV, which is still on record and a number of other TV interviews as well.

The Imperative Reforms and the Role of Democracy

At the cost of repetition, the major reforms, amongst many smaller ones, that we need to undertake, include judicial reforms, de-politicization of the police, re-visiting the Constitution and developing the idea of a presidential system as opposed to a parliamentary one, educational reforms, economic reforms, administrative districts instead of provinces, meritocracy and accountability. The political process with a parliamentary system as we have at present, shall never allow such reforms for very obvious reasons. Yet other issues, such as the environment, agriculture, industry, health all need to be seriously addressed as well.

The recognition that the people are central to the country and that it is their well-being which is the sole objective above and beyond all else is a very important factor and must not only be appropriately recognised but should also practice a practical manifestation on ground that is visible. Fundamental, human and individual rights need to be addressed properly and implemented by law as a sacrosanct value that defines the objective of the State.

Advocating a Technocrat Government and Evaluating the Caretaker Cabinet

Now being a strong proponent of a technocrat government, myself, let me comment on the current selection of the caretaker cabinet, first one would wish to extend ones felicitations to the new members and the Prime Minister. I know some of the individuals personally and genuinely feel that, under the circumstances, a better and more balanced cabinet could not have been picked. If I had to select a technocrat government, it would probably be on similar lines. I will take this occasion to congratulate the establishment for influencing the decision to pick such a cabinet and I think 14th August is a suitable day to put such group of people at the head of national affairs. I join many in extending our best wishes and prayers with this one caveat – we have hopes and expectations, so this time around, do not let us down.

Having said that, it is pertinent to mention that the affairs of the recent past, the PDM and its usurpation to the power corridors, its indecent haste in unconstitutional legislation, poor governance, mismanagement in every single field of the national administration, has now a alienated the people. Whatever good decisions one makes will always be washed away by the perception, real or contrived, that people have in their minds and their hearts. Unlawful incarceration, ham-handed policing and a totally prejudiced and biased government – selective in their application and discriminatory in their policies have left the people delusional, suspicious of the authorities concerned and irrelevant in the affairs of the nation. This must be urgently corrected to bring about harmony in society, re-establish trust in the institutions and re-affirm faith in government. This cannot be done by tricks and manipulation of power groups – inconsequential, insignificant nobodies – minnows encouraged to pull faces at others while sitting in the laps of the authorities. No, it will not work and will have a serious blow-back. So no nuisance groups please.

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The two options available for the way forward are: first, the easiest, hold a free and fair elections on time. No restraints and no restrictions. Let the people be the judges as to what they need and what they want. In the meantime, allow the judiciary to apply themselves with total independence, within the ambit of the constitution, thus restoring faith within the populace that a credible government exists. Stability and order would certainly follow this course but reforms would be difficult and soon we would gravitate back to where we are today with business as usual and more of the same. The second option, difficult but one which I strongly recommend, is to allow the caretaker government to apply itself for a reasonable amount of time to repair the damage done to the country. Give them the mandate and the time to do the reforms. To allow them un-interfered access to the government mechanism with total autonomy. However, to do this the following steps in concert would have to be taken so that the people are satisfied that there are no undue compromises and that their lives are in sane, safe and sensible hands:

  1. A foreign policy offensive, clarifying Pakistan’s position and posture so as to pacify any misgivings that the international community may
  2. Do one’s utmost to bring about a US-China rapprochement. Try and convince the US to compete with the Chinese on their BRI initiative rather than confront them through
  3. Conduct an immediate and speedy trial of all corrupt politicians across the board. Ensure transparency and conclude these trials with the return of national Dedicate an exclusive channel covering the trials for public consumption.
  4. Set up an independent anti-terrorism establishment suitably empowered and remove the army from direct contact with the people. The Army should reinforce and rotate troops through such an establishment which should be independent of military Additional troops should be made up with new raisings. It is envisaged this would be about 3 to 4 more divisions but seconded to the new establishment on rotation.
  5. Continue to focus on agriculture, industry, CPEC, privatisation, ports and infrastructure development as already being
  6. To select an appropriate Minister of Education and bring the national curriculum in keepings with international Allow third party, external examiners and provide internationally recognised certification to allow our youth global opportunities.
  7. Immediately establish polytechnics for young men and women in the far-flung Affiliate them with international institutions such as the British and European Guilds for workers

This would help export skilled manpower enhancing intermittences manifold, helping the national economy. It would also improve and stabilise life and living in the villages, stop rural to urban migration and develop these poverty-stricken areas.

It is time to give the country a chance. The present care-taker government appears to be an answer to my prayers. I think they fulfil the needs of a technocrat government. If given the time, I am confident they will deliver. However, the goals and objectives must only remain focused on national wellbeing no decision can ever be in conflict with the happiness, security and welfare of the people. Sovereignty of the people with a reasonable and near- autonomous functioning of the State must be the only priority of the government in chair. The democratic process unless suitably organised into a proper system, reliable, dependable and responsible, will not deliver as it stands. The interim time needed to cobble together the system as suitably envisaged, must be taken up by a technocrat government such as the one in place and which on the face of it seems suitably equipped, in character, capacity and capability to undertake such huge reforms. They must show the courage to undertake the reforms that this country needs, the honesty that the people are in search of and the unprejudiced determined effort that the moment is begging for.

“National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement”

-Richard Rorty

 

 

Lt. Gen (retd) Tariq Khan retired as head of Pakistan’s Central Command and has led Frontier Corps to victory against TTP. He has written and lectured extensively on the issues related to Afghanistan, the United States, and the Taliban. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.