When it comes to short term personal interests, perhaps we are the smartest people that ever stepped on the earth. Unfortunately for long term common good, we are grossly incompetent. The Prime Minister is right there being a lot of local talent but mostly misdirected and misguided. We started off well as a new nation but soon we got sidetracked. Currently, we are caught in a struggle between corruption on one hand and incompetence on the other. The truth must come out for us to move forward.

Till the sixties the overall competence level was high. Most government functionaries took their assignments seriously. Office hours were strictly kept. Senior officers provided accountability by providing on the spot redressed of grievances. There was a commitment and desire to succeed as a nation. Institution building was taken seriously.

Round the partition time, my father-in-law was inducted into the Pakistan Railway service. The trains were kept moving with a handful of drivers and maintenance staff. Officers stood on the platforms with placards requesting arriving passengers/refugees for trained help. Mary volunteered without even settling in the new land.

Competency has to be measured against ability to deliver and produce results. Sermons on honesty are not enough unless combined with effective action

Ghulam Haider Wyne family migrated from Amritsar. During his term as Chief Minister, he started a project on Walton Road from where his family had crossed over into freedom it was named ‘Bab-e-Pakistan’ (Doorway to Pakistan). After he left not a brick has been laid there. Those who entered the new land with high hopes have either perished or have been disillusioned. It seems the dream has turned into a nightmare for many. Till today the doorway to Pakistan remains incomplete.

Pakistan inherited colonial institutions that had to be remodelled. Founding fathers had the vision and will to steer the new state. There was a unique combination of competence and honesty. Liaquat Ali Khan the first PM declared that he would not own a house till every Pakistani had one. the Nawabzada left his estate behind to serve the new land and consolidate its freedom. After his assassination in 1951, the family fell on hard times. Till today they continue to struggle for their property rights.

Competency has to be measured against ability to deliver and produce results. Sermons on honesty are not enough unless combined with effective action. It is indeed true that we as a nation are hostage to ‘Mafias’ of all kind.

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When Ayub Khan planned to build the new capital he reserved for himself prime land for his personal mansion. He did not live long after being deposed. His heirs then sold the property to share the bounty. Currently, it is the Hashwani House not too far from his hotel in Islamabad.

The rot has continued in the new capital of the Islamic Republic. Those who are competent are not honest to the nation and those who are honest are mostly the incompetent lot. The combination of competence and honesty which was once the strength of the new land no longer exists. Pakistan was on track on becoming the first Asian Tiger had not the ‘Viceroys’ (Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan) come in the way.

Unfortunately, those who dodged merit are now at the helm in most institutions. It has turned out to be a classic case of a blind leading the blind to spread darkness. The light that surrounds the meritorious individuals is missing. Only a few institutions that held on to merit have survived rest have been damaged beyond repair. Nothing moves in the state apparatus unless pushed by self-interest.

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Lack of transparency and accountability has not helped. What looks good on paper does not hold ground in reality. Grass root realities are either not understood or deliberately misrepresented. Most people in authority seem helpless and unprepared to take on the negative forces of corruption. In other words, the corrupt prevail over the incompetent whereas they stand no chance against the competent who have been deliberately pushed out of the system.

Competency has to be measured against ability to deliver and produce results. Sermons on honesty are not enough unless combined with effective action. It is indeed true that we as a nation are hostage to ‘Mafias’ of all kind. The PM has shown the resolve to take them on. His hands have to be strengthened to dismantle the ‘Mafia Networks’ and to restore the writ of the state as it was before the Viceroys of Pakistan took control.

It is time to put our competency to good work. Nation-building that was stalled in 1958 after the first Martial Law has to be restarted. The divides have to be overcome. There has to be ‘Aik Pakistan’ (One Pakistan) with the state as its mother and custodian, not tormentor as it has turned out to be in our times.

Fortunately, Pakistan has enough talent both within and abroad to turn it around. Once the ‘Mafia Networks’ are shattered and merit prevails, the republic will come back on track. The institutional damage will take time to heal but a start has to be made without further delay.

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Individuals are important but it is the nation that rises together. Mutual interests are equally important and must be pursued otherwise the state ceases to function.

In order to reverse the rot, the common good should become common. Collective incompetence that we suffer from despite individual competence will get us nowhere in the comity of nations. Personal interests have been stretched too far, a balance has to be struck. In the words of Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, ‘Pakistanis only interest in their motherland is to be buried there. Graveyards can only accommodate the dead or the runaway drug addicts not the living and flourishing alive. Let us rise as a competent nation leaving greed and short term personal gains behind.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Daily Times and has been republished here 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.