In a bid to create greater accessibility for the people of Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan on 28th October 2018 launched a citizen’s portal with an aim to “timely address the problems of the people and get their feedback.” The premier termed the development as “the first step towards improving governance.”
However, it is time to get the ‘feedback’ the Prime Minister mentioned in his inauguration of the service.
Thus, in a recent Tweet, a renowned journalist of Pakistan Dr. Moeed Pirzada asked the people of Twitter, “How many of you have personally benefitted from this Citizen’s Portal? Does it really work? Any personal examples of problems solved?”
He got a mixed response, with some people going all praise about the service, while some gave examples of how nothing was done of their complaint.
The positive side
My brother in law was scammed in the name of State Life Insurance. I filed a complaint on his behalf. He got his money back within 30 days and the insurance officer was dismissed. All this was done while we were sitting at home. This app is a revolutionary step.
— Wasi (@wowsiim) May 30, 2021
According to the most liked response among all, a person tweeted that his brother was scammed, and after filing the complaint, within a week, the complainer got his money back along with the dismissal of the alleged culprit.
Another person replied that he benefitted from the service twice, once in Pakistan and abroad. He said, my license was lost by authorities (presumably in Canada) and I complained from here. License dept took a print, ran my CNIC, found the family tree, searched my brother’s number from CNIC, contacted & delivered license in 2 days.“
One person mentioned an increase in accessibility of ordinary citizens by saying, “I have benefited from PCP personally and I couldn’t believe it that my problems were solved just by lodging a complaint online without any “wasta”. It’s definitely a game-changer if handled well.”
Similarly, a huge number of people found that the majority of their complaints were solved and believed that the rest would be solved soon.
While there were many positive replies to the question, there were a lot of negative ones. According to the majority of the negative comments, their complaints were marked, ‘Partial relief granted’, or ‘relief granted’, but in reality, no action was taken in real life.
A user shared the screenshot of a shockingly high 78 complaints lodged by him. He said that not even a single one of the 78 was solved, but the app shows resolved, while the “complaints are thrown to dust bin”.
He equated such institutions to the mafia and said that these departments considered the complaints to be an insult to them.
Another user was of the view that after his complaint, “the initial response was swift however when the matter reached by the concerned department the baboos take so slowly, usually have sample reply”, adding, “partial relief granted”, (referring to the sample reply) still the matter pending before the department almost one and half month has passed. The user suggested that the PMDU should pursue the matter until real relief is granted.
A person named Hassan Naqvi said that initially when the government launched the portal it was efficient, however, as time has passed, related departments have learned to reply to the complaint with texts like “under consideration” followed by the closure of the complaint.
initially when it was launched few years back; it was quite efficient. Now with the passage of time; Govt. officials have learnt to reply to your complaint in a way that is of no use to you like 'Under consideration' & your complaint will be closed.
— Hassan Naqvi (@hassan_jawad) May 30, 2021
Yet another person like many out there reported that he lodged three complaints, but they weren’t solved at all, even though the portal said that the issue is resolved.
A 2020 report
A special report on the Citizen portal from 2020 saw similar results. According to the analysis conducted by Media for Transparency, less than 40 percent of the users declared satisfaction over the response of the government.
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The report states, “Zaheer Ahmed Awan, a social worker and local leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf party in Rawalpindi, said he has filed 88 complaints. As per the PCP, 70 of these complaints are resolved. But in fact, Awan said, not a single complaint is resolved.”
This means that the bureaucracy and government officers are misleading the PMDU team with false statistics, evident by the low satisfaction of the users.
According to the report, 1.2 million complainers from 1.8 million lodged feedback as part of their post-action feedback, and a shockingly high 61 percent were unsatisfied by the response.
Some people in response to Dr. Pirzada’s tweet said that the portal is effective on small issues, but in cases where there is major bureaucratic involvement, the issues remain unsolved.
According to the Pakistan Citizen’s Portal’s website, 2814630 complaints have been lodged and 2664254, that is, 94.7 percent have been resolved. However, reality seems far from the statistics.
On the 4th of May, PM Imran Khan did a live conference with the Pakistani envoys posted in capitals around the world virtually, where the premier read out specific complaints received from overseas Pakistanis, especially those in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, asking the embassies to put their affairs in order.
Similarly, on 29th May PM Khan’s actions led to the removal of a relevant clerk in the circle registrar’s office whereas inspector cooperative societies had also been dismissed from service, following a land grab complaint against an Islamabad’s society by an ex-pat on the Citizen’s Portal.
Seeing the mixed response and the statistics from the report, it is important that the incumbent government and PM’s office specifically has pragmatic accountability measures to oversee the real progress rather than relying on the statistics given by a push of a button.
In this case, public feedback such as the recent one by Dr. Pirzada got from Twitter would be a great asset for the government to gauge the reaction of people.