Even before Plato conceived the philosopher-king, people yearned for clever, dispassionate and principled government. When the usual run of rulers proves cowardly, indecisive or discredited, turning to the wisdom and expertise of a technocrat is particularly tempting. History suggests that technocrats do best when blitzing the mess made by incompetent and squabbling politicians. Technocracy was once a communist idea: with the proletariat in power, administration could be left to experts. But the appliance of science to politics was popular under capitalism too. Countries where electoral mandates are the ultimate source of political legitimacy usually turn to full-scale technocratic governments only for a short time, under a specific mandate and in unusual circumstances. This can be a good option for Pakistan given the turmoil it has been mired in since long.
It is often said that Pakistan is rich in natural resources but poor in their management. It is due to this poor management of the resources that the country is facing myriad problems even after nearly seven decades of independence. Since independence, the country has been under the claws of dictatorships or pseudo-democrats. Military and the politicians have not been able to steer the country out of multifarious crises. They have made the country’s bureaucratic sodality only a tool to pursue their own vested interests and that too at the expense of the masses. After having bitter experiences with democratic and military rules, we need to introduce a technocratic form of government in the country.
In the elected forms of governments, leaders are elected, with the underlying assumption that the leadership will be responsible to the governed, by translating pre-election pledges into concrete policies that enhance the general welfare of society. But, that has been a distant dream in Pakistan. The political class of the country has destroyed much of what was good about Pakistan, either through stupidity, or because of the selfish desire to advance their own interests at the expense of everyone else. This has given birth to numerous complex problems that we are facing today.
The root cause of all these problems lies in a defective system of governance dominated by feudal landlords and businessmen. One would hardly disagree that these people have miserably failed in providing good governance to the masses of the country. Our system of government is a sham democracy where only the ruling elite have all the rights, and not the general public. The result of this ‘pseudo-democracy’ is that there has been mass loot and plunder in Pakistan over the last several decades.
In Pakistan, there is no real “democracy” in action. There does not seem to be a visionary leader who could alone win the election. This brings us to the crux of the matter in terms of current developments in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are absolutely desperate of politicians. Taking into account the current crisis, perhaps it is a good idea to keep politicians away from government for some time. A feeling is developing among the concerned Pakistanis that only a technocratic which are government can carry out the “painful reforms” direly needed, at present, to save the country. It is because technocrats bring a reputational advantage both in terms of knowledge and a sense of putting national interests above party political interests.
Technocrats are actually individuals with specialized training, who approach societal problems from the vantage point of appropriate knowledge and experience. They are primarily driven by their cognitive problem-solution mindsets, and only in part by particular occupational group interests. Unlike politicians, technocrats are qualified people who would be able to take decisions that will hopefully rescue the country mired in economic and social problems. They are the people who put national interests above political interests. That is, they have no political party interests to protect and as such are bound to serve the interests of the society. Public at large believe that the so-called democratic governments have always failed in Pakistan to tackle the economic crisis. The country needs competent leadership and a team of technocrats to fix its structural problems before handing it over to an elected regime. Some might argue that a technocratic government is not democratic because it is not elected by the people and that the technocrats may not represent the ideals of democracy but they do represent the alternative to what happens when politics is antithetical to governance.
Professionalising government is the only way to improve governance and raise professional standards in the country. Given Pakistan’s numerous crises, professionalism is not an option, it’s a necessity. And we should give professionals more respect and give them a chance to exploit their skills for the greater benefit of the country. We certainly need some technocrat at the helm of country’s affairs. Such a person can be a professional economist or an engineer or a health professional to run their respective sectors of the economy.
The route to a lasting constituency for sustainable development is certainly through more and more democracy, not technocracy but unfortunately the multi-party political landscape in the country has been in disarray and politicians have failed in running the affairs of the state and delivering good governance. For national development process, the long-standing tradition has been for the nation to almost totally depend on the creativity and vision of the elected politicians. This attitude has brought us thus far, but as we now continue our walk into the zones of this 21st century, the vision for national development needs to be complemented by the creative and productive ideas and visions of technocrats to quicken the pace of national development.
Political parties in Pakistan should develop a system to induct technocrats in their folds so that they could be appointed to Parliament and the Cabinet. The possibility of engaging technocrats should be considered by the major political parties to instil more professionalism in them.