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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Punjab’s institutions need a major upgrade – Dr. Farid A. Malik

Following the recent invasion of the Governor's House, ex-Chairman of PSF Dr. Farid A. Malik believes that Punjab, the largest province of the federation, needs a major course correction. Institutions have to be rebuilt to reduce the political influence.

On the last day of April, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, son of Shahbaz Sharif, grandson of Mian Muhammad Sharif – the founder of the Sharif Dynasty of Gawalmandi – took oath as Chief Minister (CM) Punjab. Against the spirit of the 18th constitutional amendment, the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) travelled all the way to administer the formality.

More loyal than the ‘King’, the Punjab Bureaucracy and the Police sprang into action to invade the Governor’s House against the wishes of its incumbent Comrade Omer Sarfraz Cheema. The entire exercise seemed to be a big farce. A judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) had earlier issued an order asking an elected member of the federal legislature to get involved at the provincial level.

Nowhere was it ordered that the ceremony was to take place at the residence of the representative of the Federal Government. It could have been held anywhere, the Federal Guest is just down the road or even the Flatties Hotel which is close to the Provincial Legislature could have been the venue but following their tradition of ‘Badmashi’ (High handedness) Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) in connivance with the civil administration decided to show their muscle and get away with it.

Read more: Hamza Shehbaz finally takes oath as Punjab Chief Minister

Blind violation of law

In the decade of the nineties, a similar situation emerged when the government of PML-N was restored with the blessings of the then Chief Justice Nasim Hasan Shah. With the help of the civil administration, goons of PML-N wanted to take over the Governor’s House. The then Governor Chaudhry Altaf Hussain sought help from President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Rangers came to his rescue and the invasion was stalled.

Fearing a clash between the Punjab Police force raised by the Sharifs from amongst the ‘Basta B’ of Gawalmandi and a disciplined force of the federation, General Waheed Kakar, the then Army Chief stepped in and a compromise was reached. Both the President and the Prime Minister (PM) had to step down paving the way for a fresh mandate.

Ever since the ‘Sharifs’ were launched into politics by the establishment, the entire civil administration and the Police Force have started to behave like an independent ‘Malatia’ taking orders from Raiwind. Relief for the people has not been on their agenda. ‘Muk Muka’ or ‘Badmashi’ prevails at all levels. Having experience in dealing with the bureaucracy in all the four federating units, Punjab falls at the bottom mainly because of the Muslim League’s influence (PML-N, PML-Q, etc).

About a year back, Maryam Safdar, the first daughter, was summoned to appear at the Lahore NAB (National Accountability Bureau) office located on Multan Road. Instead of coming prepared with a record in her defence, she carried rubble. The entourage travelled all the way from Raiwind armed with stones for brick batting the NAB office. No one checked or stopped them on the way. The attack was so intense and blatant that no one dared to call her again.

In the recent invasion of the Governor’s House, the Chief Secretary and the Inspector General of Police acted on their own to organize the ceremony where PML-N desired. Party workers, elected representatives, and family members including the ignored first husband swarmed in while the Governor helplessly watched. Orders were being blindly followed in violation of the law even before the oath-taking ceremony.

‘Badmashi’ base governance

In order to deliver the much-needed relief to the public, the bureaucracy and the Police in Punjab need a major purge to get rid of this ‘Badmashi’ base governance that the masses have to endure while the rulers get away with their acts against the public interest. Punjab under Usman Buzdar was unable to neutralize the ‘Sharif’ grip over the administrative machinery in the province.

After the PML-N sponsored Lawyer’s Movement of 2007, the Sharifs succeeded in expanding their influence in the superior judiciary as well. Direct appointment of judges was carried out in violation of the constitutional requirements of in-house promotions. This ratio of direct versus indirect promotions within the judiciary has to be balanced for justice to prevail. The President should task the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to ensure the imbalance is corrected.

The age-old principle of ‘Recusal’ is also not being observed which is a serious infringement. The principle of seniority alone for the appointment of Chief Justice can also be reviewed. Some chiefs are appointed only for days/months which is not in institutional interests. The PM is the Chief Executive who should appoint the Chief Justice from amongst the three senior-most judges.

Recent events have shown a serious tilt and expeditious justice for some while delays for the rest have become a norm. Allowing a convicted individual to proceed abroad on medical grounds is mind-boggling. The Model Town massacre by Punjab Police awaits justice. Even the officers who pulled the triggers were allowed to proceed abroad. A major course correction is required for normalcy to prevail.

Read more: Model Town Massacre: Will the victims ever get justice?

In Lahore, almost all public record has been burnt through regularly planned infernos. No investigations have even taken place nor has anyone been punished. The Governor House Lahore was always considered to be a bastion of state. It was here that the Sharifs made their entry into politics during the tenure of Lt. General Ghulam Jillani Khan (R).

While Zia/Jillani allowed the influence of Sharifs at the top, they together with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat were given a free hand to stretch their grip over the administrative machinery and the Police force of the province. While PML-N has experienced brief periods out of power, PML-Q has managed to retain it unhindered. Even under the current arrangement, the party has managed to get two federal ministries, in the queue for the leader of the opposition slot and CM Punjab despite winning only a few seats.

Punjab needs course correction

Punjab the largest province of the federation needs a major course correction. Institutions have to be rebuilt to reduce the political influence. Service to the people has to be ensured. Massive reshuffling and forced retirements have to be carried out. Police reforms along the lines of KPK are needed.

After the recent invasion of the Governor’s House, cases of trespassing should be registered against the Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police who clearly exceeded their authority in taking over the mansion against the wishes of its legal occupant.

If the representative of the federal government can be rendered helpless, it clearly indicates the overall helplessness of the 120 million people of the province. The writ of the state has to be restored for the rule of law to prevail. The interests of Pakistan and its citizens have to be protected and not trampled on as has been the case in the last four decades when these ‘Establishment Sponsored’ political outfits were launched.

Read more: Moving from ‘Muk Muka’ to merit -Dr. Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at:fmaliks@hotmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.