| Welcome to Global Village Space

Monday, April 15, 2024

Pakistan: World of notices, directives & tasks but no follow up

Dr. Farid A. Malik, an Ex-Chairman of, Pakistan Science Foundation talks about the incompetency of Pakistani institutions to work up to the mark and addressing public problems. He recounts some incidents he has personally experienced and they turned out to be a huge disappointment.

For the last many years these words ( Notices, Directives, Tasked ) have been repeated many times but with negligible outcomes. I am sure the intentions of individuals who issue them are usually noble but their assumptions are grossly false. For functional and responsive organizations they may carry some weight but with collapsed institutions, a strong follow-up is needed which is completely missing at all levels.

Mystery and cover-up which is always a sign of mischief prevail in most government departments. Distorted facts are presented which do not hold ground. To overcome the executive abuse unnecessary civil litigation emanates which is then prolonged at public expense by the superiors to protect the guilty. The public continues to suffer while the notices and directives are dodged by the entrenched bureaucracy. Assigned tasks have been rendered meaningless.

Read more: IMF cannot dictate policies to institutions in Pakistan, Teresa Daban

Abuse of power in broad daylight

I remember a few years back my nephew was visiting us from London. While walking down the Anarkali Bazar he saw a Police Constable on duty eating bananas from the cart of the fruit vendor.  For him it was a very unusual scene, he started shouting;  ” Look, look the Police man is eating banannas “. Everyone including the man on duty was surprised as if no wrong had been committed. A Constable on his beat in London is fully aware of his assigned task.

He is required to be a custodian of public property, not an owner/usurper who can dine at will with no questions asked. Cases of physical abuse have been reported when the men in uniform were asked to pay their bills. Most Police vehicles break traffic rules, several times I have personally stopped Constables riding official bikes through red lights but they remain unfazed mainly because of lack of monitoring, transparency and accountability. They invariably utter the words;  ” Kar lo Jo Karna Ha ” which translates locally into;  ” What goes of your father ” or in other words why are you bothered? Please correct your assumptions we are dealing with a non-functional, corrupt, coercive, colonial system that once worked under the whip of the ‘ Gora Sahib ‘ to suit his interests. It was designed to rule not to serve, eating free fruit on duty off the vendor’s cart is just an effect, not the cause which is hidden in the basic design of the system.

A few months back I had the chance of visiting the Chief Secretary’s ( CS ) official residence in GOR I after many years. I was surprised to see its upgradation with a full-fledged home office on the lawns. It reminded me of the only official residence owned and maintained by the Government of United States called the White House where the elected President resides and works. Till the decade of the eighties, the two important residences  (  Chief Secretary,  Commissioner )  located on Aikman Road had just one room attached office for purposes of co-ordination only. All official work was done at the Secretariat, now they both have full fledged home offices where they can totally isolate themselves from the public fury because of their lack of performance.

Read more: Op-ed: The broadsheet saga is the ‘crash’ of Pakistan’s institutions

I met the CS after getting an appointment through the efforts of a signatory whom I had to request. Must admit that my complete was listened to with attention, as I usually go prepared with the required paperwork to get started. The task was assigned to a Deputy Secretary  ( DS ) who was asked to pursue the case. A few days later I was asked to see the relevant officer who was also helpful and agreed to send a complete report to the DS for possible resolution of the complaint.

As days went by I called the office of the DS to inquire about the report which had not been received.  He asked me to remind the relevant department for the report, I was told that they would only forward the same if asked by the DS, so I called him again. His reply surprised me, he asked me to get the report and then see him as it was my responsibility to get the report as if the entire Board of Revenue ( BOR ) reported to me, I wish it did so that I could fix it.

The incompetency to address public issues 

Despite several reminders and requests, nothing moved. Finally, the CS created a cell for public grievances, where I lodged a complaint that remains unrealized. Notices, directives, tasks, meetings nothing is moving mainly due to lack of follow up action. I am sure the Prime Minister  ( PM ) is trying to improve the system but it remains sluggish.

Read more: Personalities vs institutions in Pakistan: An endless struggle for dominance

The PM Portal does move but then the departments cover up their evil tracks by concealing facts for which there should be some punishment. The Information Commission ( IC ) is effective in getting the relevant information but they do not have executive authority. The office of the Ombudsman does intervene in certain situations and issue orders which have to be carried out.

The PM is right that most state institutions are in the control of ‘ Mafias ‘ but no one is willing to take them on. The senior officers shy away to protect their jobs while the elected members have to face the brunt of the public. The aggrieved party is thrown to the beasts to fight their own battles like the Gladiators in the famous Callosum in Rome. Those who survive the duel get another chance but the relief is only short and brief, finally, the ‘ Mafias ‘ prevail. In addition to the Alligators and Sharks in the system, political influence also runs very deep.

What hope is left for our institutions?

Individuals recruited and appointed into important positions by the previous regimes have to be taken out of the mainstream for the system to become responsive but unfortunately, they continue to hijack the entire administrative setup. Since May of this year, the PM has not approved promotions to senior positions pending public inputs as most ACRs are bogus.

It is certainly a good move but an effective mechanism will be needed for such public feedback. Perhaps the performance of bureaucracy is worst in Punjab mainly because of lack of follow-up and feedback. Also, the Chaudhry’s of Gujrat have their own influence in the legislature which blocks public welfare legislation.

Read more: Pakistan military sets high standards for other institutions to follow

When Shaukat Aziz the Plastic Prime Minister came into power, he invited all senior officers to his office and delivered a powerful speech highlighting his agenda of change, which was then followed by a question and answer session. I asked him a simple question;  ” If we take on the Mafia for change  will you support us “? He was baffled and unable to give a straight answer. The question remains the same;  ‘ How to take on the Mafia ‘? I am sure the PM wants a massive clean-up followed by restoration of the collapsed institutions.

NCOC ( National Command Operation Center ) has performed well as it is free of the evil forces and professionally guided by Dr. Faisal Sultan a specialist in communicable diseases. The non-performing bureaucracy too needs professional leadership like NCOC. Notices and directives look good only on paper unless followed by foolproof follow-up. I once again request the CS to get the report of my complaint as the BOR reports to him, not me.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at  fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.