Shakeel Ahmad Ramay
Governance is the art of satisfying the needs of the people and serving the interests of the people. People need quality food, shelter, security, and a quality environment to live better. People also expect quality services like education, health, entertainment, etc. Thus, they termed governance a basic human right to live a better life. With the advent of democracy, the word governance got further traction, as democracy promised the rule of the people and for the people. People tired of old systems believed that democracy would ensure governance, which could help to meet the people’s needs. They looked at democratic governance as a two-way system. Unfortunately, it did not happen, and democratic governance became a one-way system.
The second prominent element of the governance system is accountability. People look at governance as a system that ensures transparency and accountability. It must have strong accountability mechanisms for those who take charge of governance. Moreover, it should be a continuous process, and people do not need to wait for years. It was considered the basic element to keep the governance system people-centric and transparent. Again, this did not happen. The guards of governance adapted the slogan of people’s accountability after a certain number of years. Moreover, they developed accountability mechanisms that suited them, and no one could question them, let alone accountability.
From here, a debate originates about what type of system is required to ensure two-way and people-centric governance, which can satisfy the needs of the people. For that purpose, the system should be built on the principle of continuous engagement with people. It should not be like getting a vote after certain years and forgetting the people. The people who have been entrusted to run the governance system must be available all the time. They should deliver and present themselves for accountability all the time.
Against this backdrop, let’s analyze the Pakistani governance system. Pakistani governance system is a mixture of various systems. The constitution prescribed a Western-style liberal governance system. The constitution also makes it compulsory to follow Islamic laws, and no law can be formulated in contrast to Islamic laws. However, in reality, Pakistan does not follow Islamic laws. Pakistan follows Western laws for day-to-day business and to run the country. For example, Islamic laws prohibit Riba and declare it an act of war against Allah and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Pakistanis accept it as an Islamic obligation but do not practice it. The whole economic system is built on the Riba.
The constitution also does not follow the Islamic system to select or identify people who will implement the governance system. Pakistan applies a liberal democratic process to elect people to govern the country. Pakistan is practising Western liberal democracy, which hinges on the electoral process. Political parties battle to get the chance to assume the power to govern the country. They field their candidates to win the election.
In this way, it gives birth to division in society. The worst part of this system is that the success of one party depends on the failure of the other party. Thus, the opposition party or parties put all efforts into ensuring the government does not perform. They feel if they allow the ruling party to perform, then they will not get any chance to get elected to rule the country. Hence, they try to create hurdles in the name of democracy and entangle the ruling parties in non-issues. During the process, people get ignored, and their needs are not satisfied.
Apart from this, Pakistan has its unique governance system, relation-based or network-based governance system. It has captured the whole system, from the electoral process to running the country. It starts with electables and culminates with relatives’ positioning at power bases. There is no law for the powerful, who can influence or have relatives or friends at the powerhouses. You can do anything, and no one can touch you. Family-based political parties and political affiliation are classic examples of understanding the system.
Based on the above discussion, we can infer that Pakistan does not have a service-oriented system. It does not care much for the needs of the people, let alone the interests of the people. The players are more interested in minting the benefits and securing their interests at all costs. They apply all tools to achieve their goals. They have formulated like-minded groups and pursued their objectives. They are supported by the business and other interest groups, real estate, brokers, media, etc. They have turned democracy into an instrument to acquire power. Now, the electoral process is dictated by money and power. There is less or no space for true democracy.
They love to rule the people and country and are less interested in service delivery. It has resulted in multiple problems. The economy is going down. Debt is rising, and Pakistan does not know where to manage resources to repay debt. Youth are looking for jobs and livelihood opportunities. Poverty and food insecurity are on the rise. Millions of kids are out of school. The education system has no vision, and the private sector is taking over the sector. The health sector is in pathetic form, and people are suffering.
Against this backdrop, there is a need for change. The existing system has miserably failed to satisfy the needs of people; rather, it made life difficult for the masses. There is no hope that this system will deliver because the powerful elite has captured it. They are ruthlessly exploiting it for their benefit. Thus, Pakistan has to look for an alternative system. Pakistan needs a system that works on merit and follows the rules and laws. The merit must be supported by strong character, integrity, selflessness, and morality. A system that discourages all sorts of favouritism and promotes inclusive decision-making and implementation.
If Pakistan wants to change, Pakistan can learn from different models of people-centric governance and pick the best suited for Pakistan. For example, Pakistan can learn from the people-centric governance and whole process democracy model. Pakistan can learn from these models but should not try to imitate them because every country has different dynamics.
In conclusion, change is a need of the time, not an option. If Pakistan fails to change, then Pakistan must be ready to face undesired consequences.