Good Governance: Where Does Pakistan Stand?

Governance describes “the process of decision-making and the way by which decisions are implemented

What is good governance? Good governance is an indeterminate term used in development literature to describe how public institutions conduct affairs and manage public resources in order to guarantee the realisation of human rights. Governance describes “the process of decision-making and the way by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) offers a somewhat more comprehensive definition of good governance that includes: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus-ori-ented functioning, equity, inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, and accountability.

If we put the country to the test against ESCAP’s list of good governance values, we would naturally be depressed. The watchdog media is doing an excellent job in demanding good governance values and being critical of the present government. The main focus is on corruption and transparency from the long list given in the definition. Many other values that make good governance are touched upon rarely. That is where we go wrong. The values of a society are based on its whole social structure and a particular value cannot be seen in isolation.

No analysis of any society gives the complete picture if the political, social and economic perspective is not kept in sight. Otherwise, an impression is created that governance has turned bad overnight and only because of a particular set of politicians. There are a number of factors that have resulted in failure of governance in Pakistan.

Caliph Hazrat Omar (RA) declared that if a dog dies of hunger at the bank of Tigress, he is answerable to Almighty God.
First and the single most important factor is the feudal and tribal culture of our society with heavy reliance on an agrarian economy. The Muslim League’s leadership came from the feudal and tribal elite. Other major players in governance were the immigrants, who dominated the bureaucracy and formed the new mercantile class of the country. These ruling classes of Pakistan at the time of independence were not capable of providing good governance values in the modern sense. The same feudal and tribal values with little variation prevail today in sharp contrast to the values of the capitalist democratic system.

Second important factor very much related to the first factor is the absence of transparency in this feudal and tribal system, where might is right and merit is undermined by the primary quality: ‘loyalty’. Equity has no place in this system as it is based on hereditary position in a society. Even today almost 65 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas where the value system is an overhang of feudal values. This is brought to the cities when the chosen representatives of the rural areas come to power. The urban democratic value system, which is based on individual rights, finds the actions of these feudals and tribal chiefs appalling but do not pause to think that it is not possible to change the governance values without first changing the feudal and tribal relations. Even the urban capitalist society cannot provide all the answers as it cannot give equity. Corruption exists in all developed economies; the difference is of ratio and sophistication.

Third, the early ruling bureaucracy and mercantile class were from the immigrants. No matter where they come from globally immigrants have their own common go-getter culture. As they migrate, their first preference is to settle themselves economically as quickly as possible. In this pursuit, many good governance values are trampled. In their new land they are also free from the social pressures of local society, which keeps a mutual check on each other in a settled society. In the case of Pakistan, the classic example is that of many exaggerated claims of the refugees where people who were from middle and lower classes before partition claimed to be from royal and elite class once they migrated to Pakistan. It is this same class that has used every fair and unfair means to raise its socio-economic status, ignoring every lesson of merit and morality.

Fourth, 30 long years of military dictatorship have not let democracy to take roots in the country. Most elected governments also spent much of their energies in claiming their space from the establishment. In sharp contrast to Pakistan, there has not been even a single martial law in India since its independence and that is the reason for it becoming the world’s largest democracy.

And finally so long as Islam is used as a mean of winning election and it is not implemented in its true spirit, good governance will always remain a dream in Pakistan as most of our population which is illiterate and poor will never get its rights, women and minorities will be ignored and looting will become our national character.

Caliph Hazrat Omar (RA) declared that if a dog dies of hunger at the bank of Tigress, he is answerable to Almighty God. Kingship knows no kinship and this has been the order of things right when the first man was born. So far Pakistan has been ruled by democrats and dictators with absolute powers but with no responsibility. Although accountability is the keynote of Islamic character yet it is not only emitted from the constitution of Pakistan but also not found even in the character of the rulers. This is a word unknown to the rulers of Pakistan, unless accountability is introduced with all the seriousness that it demands, the ills and curses inflicting the country will continue.

By: Dr Najam us Sahar Butt (CSP)

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