Pakistan seems to be mired in a myriad of problems; the issue of ‘good governance’ being predominant among them. In fact, good governance and quality of governance are a part of the current discourse as it is the principal reason why economic growth in Pakistan had been stalled for a long time. Presumably, all of the existing political and socioeconomic issues of the country are chiefly attributive to an acute lack of good governance.
Before commenting on the issue of good governance in Pakistan, it is imperative that we understand the essential definition of the term ‘governance’ itself. Governance, in fact, is the establishment of policies and a continuous monitoring of their proper implementation, by the members of the governing body. It includes the mechanisms required to balance the powers of the members (with the associated accountability), and their primary duty of enhancing the prosperity and viability of the state.
However, when leaders interpret good governance, they usually twist the definition to fit it in their own model of governance. The above definition might confuse a layman as well and, therefore, when asked from an ordinary citizen as to what he thinks of good governance, he might say that “good governance is exercising authority in ways that respect the integrity, rights and needs of everyone within the state without exception.” And thus, this very definition shall be the cornerstone to my entire argument. For a ruler or for any representative body in authority, to misinterpret or distort the term ‘good governance’ is not a mere mishap; it showcases the causes for the failure of good governance.
To my understanding, if a country lacks a proper democratic setup; where there is no accountability and instead corruption and mismanagement of resources are the governing body’s nucleus, then the state, without any incertitude, is a victim of bad governance. A practical narration of these factors has been witnessed since the creation Pakistan.
For over three decades, the country has been under military regimes, and now when we seem to have a ‘democratic rule,’ widespread corruption has made good governance a dismal and a delusional concept. The recent Panama Leaks episode, forcefully, brings to light the issue of lack of accountability. Besides massive corruption and plunder, imprudent spending of funds and resources has also been a chronic problem of Pakistan’s governance system. Punjab government’s flagship project “Lahore Orange Line Metro Train” has emerged as a terrible threat to Lahore’s cultural heritage sites e.g. Chauburji, Mall Road, Shalimar Gardens, etc., and has also led to displacement of thousands of citizens, for the route chosen moves through their houses and workplaces. But, despite being aware of these facts and amidst civil society protests, the project work is going full throttle.
Such projects not only depict government’s short-sightedness, but are also a flagrant example of bad governance. Funds and resources allocated for this infrastructure development project could have been used to make progress in the socioeconomic sector of the society, i.e. education, health, etc.
Chronically precarious law and order situation in Pakistan is another manifestation of pervasive bad governance. Extremism and sectarian conflicts have damaged the progressive nature that Pakistan as a developing country should have. The target killings in Karachi and persecution of the Hazara community in Quetta are just a few examples as to how our country is being devoured by sectarian divisions and ‘Talibanization’; and those tasked with governance are responsible for this continual fiasco.
The aforementioned examples draw us to the conclusion that how desperately Pakistan needs accountability, responsibility, rule of law and legitimacy to nurture a culture of good governance. However, for good governance to become static and ingrained in our political system, these parameters need to be accompanied by progressive features. For instance, socioeconomic development along with free media is the keystone of good governance. We still see the instances of victimization of media and press. For instance, frenzied mobs attacked media houses and journalists all over the country when Mumtaz Qadri was hanged in Salman Taseer’s murder case. Despite continuous requests by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) to take actions to stop attacks on media houses, no action was taken by the government to provide security to media.
Moreover, political stability and public participation are both essentials to good governance. Pakistan has long been the victim of political instability due to perpetual conflicts, and absence of stable democratic setup. Even after nearly seven decades, the country could not be rid of feudal oligarchy.
All these failures that have restricted good governance, and the ignorance of the prerequisites for bringing it, have resulted in widespread negative impacts on the Pakistan’s society. On societal front, the society is becoming radicalized and people are becoming less tolerant and forbearing. This has also led to exploitation of religion, as ‘mullahs’ have proved to be an eclipse to the true essence of Islam as they play with people’s minds to expand their money-making businesses. However, the government is not ready to take action against such bad eggs and there is no clear distinction between the state and religious entities, if they legitimize one another, is a simple yet a huge question. This further makes us realize how the government is following a closed system of governance, where the public seems not to be aware of their economic agendas or their strategies in general. In a democratic state, this perhaps is an unavoidable flaw, thus leading to bad governance.
As I conclude this debate of good governance, one realizes how democracy and good governance go hand in hand. In case of Pakistan’s version of democracy, the elected representatives grossly violate the public mandate for obtaining their selfish and materialistic gains. Regrettably, voters, after having elected their representatives, virtually become subjects of powerful elite who tend to shatter all hopes of voters by neglecting their social problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaign are quickly forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again and election campaigns are held merely as rituals. Unfortunately, voters lack social influence and political power, becoming trading pawns in the hands of politicians who regard elections as opening of a window to plundering national wealth through all possible means of corruption.
Therefore, to develop a culture of good governance in Pakistan, we need to focus and interpret the true essence and definition of ‘democracy’ and make it a salient feature of good governance. While at the same time, the parameters needed for good governance, as mentioned previously, need to be implemented in all their authenticity.