Institutional Decay in Pakistan
There is an urgent need for reforms
Pakistan, a state where no one hears the plea of Rashida Bibi who visits nearby police station for registration of FIR against her rapists; a state where Noor Mukadam is murdered but is unable to get justice; a state where bribe is to be given to get even a legal work done; a state where people declare their siblings dead in official documents and the latter have to live their lives miserably just asking for their share in property; and a state where businessmen monopolize by gratifying institutions as being done with Railways and Excise Department. This decay is too limited to explain the unseen decline of the institutions in Pakistan.
There are four chief reasons behind a continuous decay of state institutions in Pakistan.
First, and perhaps the most important, reason of this decay is the politicization and militarization of state institutions. This ill has its roots in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nationalization policy but it spread more rapidly in Zia’s era when he started appointing the armed forces personnel as the heads of civil departments. Afterwards, cut-short tenures of political governments in 1990s further weakened the institutions. Gen. Pervez Musharraf tried to strengthen institutions but his steps for gaining political legitimacy such as giving powers to local governments at the expense of those of civil servants, were also a setback for the institutional strength. Same decay has been witnessed on the past ten years or so.
Second, the gap between their salaries and expenditures brings government servants towards corruption – a menace for public. This curse deepens with the time due to continuous downward spiral of the state economy.
Third, institutions also suffered due to the faulty policies of political governments as they were mostly aimed at seeking personal interests or to serve businessmen against some petty benefits. For example, ‘Mr 10 percent’ had ensured the monopoly of Indus Motors in Pakistan and stopped other companies from setting their foot in Pakistan just for his personal interests.
Fourth, the colonial setup has not been reformed. Most of the civil and criminal laws are the ones inherited from British era and the civil institutions are still running under these outdated laws. Despite the fact that the world has moved on and has gone through the technological revolution, our state institutions still use old means and procedures for their general working. These reasons are actually the major termites making the institutions hollow from inside.
Now, let’s see how these institutions can be reformed.
For this, initially, there is a dire need to depoliticize the institutions. It can only be done by making institutional hierarchy strong enough to stand and function independently. The government should award budgets to the departments directly rather than handing those over to the politicians. Moreover, Planning Commission should be strengthened to plan and advise the incumbent government on the necessity and feasibility of the project(s). And the required budgets should, then, be provided to the respective departments. In addition, although the government is not strong economically, it should pay the employees a reasonable salary and other perks through which their families can live a happy and peaceful life.
Next, there is need for bringing technological revolution in government departments because the procedures involving technology will reduce the chances of corruption and will ensure transparency in the governmental procedures. Use of technology will also reduce the procedural delays. Likewise, there is a pressing need to develop robust internal accountability mechanisms of the departments. The government should hire technocrats and rope in think tanks for making effective policies for strengthening and reforming the state institutions.
In this context, some institutional reforms are being suggested below:
Firstly, the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) can be reformed by the use of technology, i.e. by introducing online complaint mechanism. There is a need for introducing community policing in the society in order to reduce crimes, and enhancing the productivity of the police. Moral upbringing of the officers is also required and it can be ensured through training and by strengthening media.
Secondly, there is need for judicial reforms. To speed up the delivery of justice, whole system should be devised on the pattern of model court system and online portals. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms can enhance the productivity of the system and they will add to the speedy disposal of cases.
Thirdly, in energy and power departments, engineers, who are well learned and experienced in the field work — rather than those knowing only the bookish things – as productivity depends on the field knowledge. Moreover, Planning Commission should remain in contact with these departments and its teams should regularly survey the development projects under construction for the sake of quality and stability analysis.
Fourthly, Pakistan Railways and PIA can become more efficient when the monopolies of private transport companies are broken. The government can increase taxes on the private service-providers while making Railways and PIA services cost-efficient. There is need for reducing the subsidies provided to business sector, as it costs government in the form of less revenue collection, making institutions lethargic and thus leading them to decay.
Fifthly, the tax receiving process should also be shifted online. With this, the curse of tax evasion and corruption in the revenue-collection department will be eliminated and the process will become more transparent.
Lastly, there is need to improve health and education services which can be improved by competing the services provided by the private institutions.
In short, modern public service management should be introduced in the public service of Pakistan. People must become the true citizens of the state who own its institutions. We the citizens of Pakistan can together nestle these institutions through our devotion by transforming our culture.
The author has recently graduated in law from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.