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Good Governance in Pakistan | Problems and Possible Solutions

Governance is generally conceived of as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority in the public and private spheres to manage a country’s affairs at all levels in order to improve the quality of life of the people. It is a continual process where divergent opinions and desires are satisfied through compromise and tolerance in a spirit of cooperative action for the mutual benefit of the larger whole. This article is an attempt to understand the concept of good governance and evaluate the past and present status of “Good Governance in Pakistan” and suggest a way forward for effective and efficient future.

Introduction

Human beings since the inception of the earth have gone through the process of learning from nature. The curiosity of “How”, “What” and “Why” has led them to discover, develop, invent and create great ideas and systems to fulfil the needs as and when occurred. Governance means productive development and direction towards positivity and effective performance. It is the art of showing how to act and react in a manner that is beneficial and aligned with the goals and objectives one has. The system of governance emerged from the existence and understanding of “good” and “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, etc. It means that when people started to comprehend terms like “justice,” “fairness” “law”, “ethics”, etc. they had taken their step towards governance.

Origin

It is difficult to analyse the origins of governance as the concept is not new. Nevertheless, early discussions go back to at least 400 B.C. to the Arthashastra, a fascinating treatise on governance attributed to Kautilya, thought to be the chief minister to the King of India. In it, Kautilya presented key pillars of the ‘art of governance’, emphasizing justice, ethics, and anti-autocratic tendencies.

In addition, every religion gave guiding principles for life called values. The “Ten Commandments,” for example, were given to better perform one’s duties, to avoid evil deeds and promote ethics and worship and how one followed was part of governance.

Similarly in Islam the concept of Holy Quran as a guiding book and following the life and actions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a way of life fall under the category of governance.

From the inception of Political Science as a discipline concerned with the study of state, governments and politics in setting up rules and regulations to run governments to modern management science and public administration, governance has become a frequently used term alongside terms like sustainable development, civil society, transparency, devolution of power and democracy. The presence of good governance practices clarifies authority, simplifies decision making, and ensures people and organizations are accountable for their actions and decisions.

Definitions

Governance is a broad concept that covers all aspects of the ways a country is governed including its economic policies and regulatory framework as well as adherence to the rule of law. The definitions of governance are but in plenty. Some important of them are as under:

1. Governance in Islam

The Qur’an defines good governance as the rule of justice, a just and ethical order and observance of rights and obligations in a society. The Qur’an declares:
“Those when given authority in land, establish (system of) salah, give zakat and enjoin what is good (ma’ruf) and forbid what is wrong (munkar). (22:41)
The Qur’an defines good governance as the rule of justice, a just and ethical order and observance of rights and obligations in a society.

2. World Bank

“Governance refers to the manner in which public officials and institutions acquire and exercise the authority to shape public policy and provide public goods and services.”

In another definition by World Bank, it is defined as:

“Governance is a simple concept at heart: good governance is good government. The concept is related to the quality of the relationship between government and the citizens whom it serves and protects.”

Good Governance in Policymaking

Most scholars and policymakers recognize that “Good Governance” is a fundamental ingredient for sustained economic development. Various bodies and associations have stepped forward to devise an international standard for governance which is acceptable and adaptable to various countries around the world. Two such organizations are the United Nations and the World Bank.

Governance in Pakistan: A Historical Perspective

Pakistan inherited British structure of judiciary, civil services and military but there was a relatively weak legislative oversight at the time of country’s independence. Over time the domination of civil services and military in the affairs of the state disrupted the evolution of the democratic political process and further weakened the legislative organ of the state.

Following independence, the requirements of good governance expanded in scope and demand while the level of expectations from the public and their elected representatives was also heightened. But these institutions failed to adapt themselves to the new challenges of development and social changes and respond to the heightened expectations. The stigmas of malpractice, bribery, corruption and law-breaking for personal gains started to become a norm for politicians, military rulers and government officials.

Governance in Pakistan; Current Scenario

The present situation of Pakistan is not very encouraging as it is coping with numerous external as well as internal challenges. These issues, directly or indirectly, are affecting the cause of good governance in Pakistan. Where Pak Army is engaged in a war to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan’s soil, the nation is also entangled in a number of crises including the crises of energy, food and unemployment. This state of affairs has adversely affected all spheres of life and almost all sectors of the country be it education, health, industry or agriculture.

Since last many years, the governance has been the focus of the media. The reason, therefore, is that it witnessed the most rapid slide therein during this period. A burning question that is being raised is that “Will the continuation of the present democratic system lead to better governance of the state?”

The creation of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, Competition Commission of Pakistan and various Ombudsmen (Mohtasibs) is a clear manifestation of how the integrity gap had expanded. None of these institutions delivered in terms of ensuring good governance.

No doubt, the decisions made at the appropriate time and effectively enforced can only make the governance good. Red-tapism, bureaucratic mindset and delay in processes lead to inefficiency, as has happened in Pakistan. The absence of good governance has led the country to the monster of corruption. Corruption is not limited only to monetary frauds or looting of public exchequer. The misuse of entrusted power for private benefit is also a form of corruption and it is unfortunately endemic in Pakistan. No structure, no tier, and no office of public sector could remain immune to it.

The Way Forward

The concept of “good governance” has not emerged from outside mankind’s experience throughout the ages. It is based on a lesson from history which records both the downfall of nations resulting from bad governance, and also lessons of how nations have risen to great heights as a consequence of “good governance”.
In general, opportunities for a fair governance, true democracy and civil society in Pakistan can only flourish when democracy continues functioning under the supremacy of the Constitution. Almost all major development institutions believe that promoting good governance is an important part of their agenda. The question of “how to improve governance” is, of course, the most pressing from a policy perspective but it can be achieved through collective efforts in Pakistan by taking various radical steps at the earliest.

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