Government sector lacking competent CEOs

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan needs well connected and in control CEOs at all levels for effective running of the state which has been largely ignored in the last forty years.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

No organisation can function without a Chief Operating Officer (CEO). Once in the saddle, these high-profile individuals are required to deliver. Yes, a good CEO will certainly not stay the course of the Titanic. Unfortunately, in the land of the pure, most CEOs are impure as they are unable to break the shackles of the dreaded status-quo despite the clear collision course that lies ahead.

There was a time when the motherland was also blessed with able individuals who led from the front. I was a great admirer of fellow engineer Shaukat Mirza, the first CEO of ENGRO. When EXXON Incorporated decided to pull out of Pakistan, Shaukat Sahib led a successful campaign of an employee takeover. He then led the company to great heights under his professional leadership.

Impressed with his professional credentials, the Government of Pakistan sought his expertise to turn around Pakistan State Oil (PSO). He did not stay the course; the bums were sorted out. The Titanic was saved. The multinationals were left behind. He asked all the right questions and then pushed his team for answers. Personal safety was his last priority, he always considered himself to be an honest employee who was required to serve his organisation. Naturally such people are a rarity in our times. Unfortunately, one dark afternoon, he was gunned down while driving back home. The journey of an illustrious son of the soil came to an end, but he left behind an unmatched legacy of courage and performance. His second-in-command Tariq Kirmani took over and PSO continued to advance.

Read more: Why insurance industry has not prospered in Pakistan: CEO UBL Insurers explains

Army’s chain of command

The Chief of the Pakistan Army was called Commander-in-Chief (C-n-C). After the promulgation of the 1973 constitution the post was re-designated as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Unfortunately today, the real chain of command only exists in the Armed Forces; all other state institutions are rudderless. The COAS is the CEO whose orders are carried out. There is internal monitoring and accountability. SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) exist for most operations which have to be followed. Lt General Attiq-ur-Rehman (late) was once going in his staff car without uniform. The guard on duty saluted him. He stopped his car, as the SOP had been violated by the guard by saluting an out-of-uniform officer; the guard was punished with ten push ups. While completing his punishment, the guard pointed out that the General had also violated an SOP as the stars on the car were uncovered while he was not in uniform; as a result, the General had to do push ups as well. Chain of command and strict adherence to SOPs together with internal accountability ensures effective performance of the men in uniform.

To be effective, the CEO must be in touch with ground realities. A few years back I was called by the Chairman WAPDA to discuss management issues. The Chairman and his Principal Staff Officers (PSO) were both men in uniform. While I was waiting to meet the CEO, I asked the PSO if he knew the status of the nearest Macleod Road subdivision which is visible from the Chairman’s office. The answer was in the negative; my second question was how long will it take for you to find out? About a week was his answer. Personally, I thought it would take much longer as there was no data collection or submission system in place. With such disconnect and almost zero monitoring in place, no organisation can be run effectively—the CEO could only enjoy the view of his office located on the top floor.

Way forward

In order to contain executive abuse, administrative courts were enacted in the 1972 Interim Constitution under Article 216. In the permanent 1973 document, a toned-down version was included under Article 212 which was subsequently removed in 1979 during the Zia Dark Ages. These courts were designed after the ‘Mazalim Courts’ of Riyasat-e-Madina, formalised during the Caliphate of Hazrat Ali (RA). Napoleon was exposed to these courts during his stay in Egypt and then introduced them in France under the title of; Conseil d’ etat (State Courts). Similar courts were then established in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and New Zealand to contain executive high handedness.

Read more: Why is Jeff Bezos stepping down as Amazon’s CEO?

As a first step, the PM can restore the expunged Article 212 and establish the first administrative court in his secretariat to start accountability of the executive within the executive as is being done by the COAS within the Army and Chief Justice of Pakistan within the judiciary. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan needs well connected and in control CEOs at all levels for effective running of the state which has been largely ignored in the last forty years. It is time to go after the bums who are steering the Titanic on a collision course.

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here after making certain changes for which prior permission from the author was taken. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.