Which model of governance?

By Syed Mohibullah Shah

POOR countries are poor not because they lack resources but because they are ruled by indigent laws and institutions of governance that are incapable of addressing challenges and opportunities of the world they operate in. Their problems are compounded by opaque and unaccountable governance that often works as a nursery to promote the culture of cronyism and uses various pretexts for self-perpetuation.

In one of my meetings with former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, he explained the culture of governance adopted by the founding fathers of the new state of Singapore. “We faced,” Lee explained, “the classic question of governance: whether we put in place a system of laws and institutions that would sanctify rulers as a breed above the rest, and operate the system for promoting their special interests, or devise a system of governance that works for the country as a whole.”

In the case of the former, the rulers — whether civil or military — were to be generally exempted from the application of ordinary laws of the state. In the latter case, all politics and governance had to be conducted under the rule of law, and everybody, including Lee himself as head of government, would be subject to the same laws as everyone else.

The founding fathers decided to institute the system of governance that would work for everyone’s benefit, undertook reforms in governance to actualise it, and, as Lee said, it helped to “create assets where none existed”. The results have been there for everyone to see.

In 50 years of independence, the laws and institutions of governance adopted by the founding fathers of Malaysia have not only lifted it from Third World to First World status, but have also won it worldwide praise for establishing a balanced, harmonious, multiethnic, multicultural and prosperous society. Everyone, from the secretary-general of the UN to Nobel laureates, is now asking developing and developed countries to learn from its successful model of governance.

Malaysia’s model of governance incorporated into its constitution became operational from the first day of its independence. Even leaders like Tengku Abdul Rahman and Mahathir Mohamed continued to follow the same model of governance uninterrupted, and it succeeded in producing the most harmoniously balanced, stable, peaceful and prosperous society among the OIC countries.

Pakistan’s experimentation with different models of governance has never ended. The principles of governance enunciated by the father of the nation were disowned by his own party and government six months after his death. Mr Jinnah’s model was recaptured after a 25-year gap in the 1973 Constitution.

Individual rulers come and go, but if this first and only popularly approved model of governance had been allowed to work its way uninterrupted, it would have produced a stable, balanced, progressive and prosperous society in Pakistan.

But a quarter century of undemocratic governance created powerful vested interests that subverted this model of governance within four years. A radically different model of governance was forced into the Constitution by General Zia. It has continued to rule the roost since then, and is making the governance of Pakistan an increasingly difficult task.

Zia’s model of governance created big problems as it gave de facto recognition to two other sovereigns — religious clerics and military rulers — besides the people of Pakistan, and protected their agenda and interests by keeping them beyond the oversight or amending powers of parliament. This model of governance has since then been expected to deliver to the satisfaction of three sovereigns who are sometimes pulling it in different directions.

The issue is not one of the difference of interests of various groups, which is normal in every society. The problems of governance thrown up by this model lie in the absence of an ultimate forum for the resolution of conflicts of interest among the three claimants to sovereignty, in order to produce harmonious national development. This model of governance doesn’t recognise parliament as the ultimate forum for reconciliation of conflicts of interest among various sections of society.

No solution is in sight. Neither are the two de facto sovereigns accepting the sovereignty of parliament as the ultimate forum nor is the country’s politics reforming itself in order to produce powerful democratic institutions including a parliament capable of enforcing the will of the people.

This state of affairs had been witnessed in the recent past when elected parliaments could not mobilise popular support to protect themselves against their dismissals on the flimsy ground of power politics.

Its latest proof was witnessed by the contrast in public enthusiasm of the entire civil society in protecting the rule of law and judicial independence during the lawyers’ movement and the indifference shown during Nawaz Sharif’s return. The latter was seen by the public as no more than the use of hard-won judicial independence by a politician with a long record of autocratic and self-serving rule aimed at fulfilling his personal agenda.

As the last 30 years have demonstrated, the unresolved conflicts embedded in this model of governance have been a source of recurring instability in the country. These have worked as the sword of Damocles that hangs over every government and leads to sustained unpredictability in governance, which has been playing havoc with the political and economic development of the nation.

Irrespective of the good intentions of any ruler, this model of governance cannot simultaneously deliver on conflicting agendas without acknowledging an agreed forum where conflicts of interest could be peacefully resolved to produce harmonious national development.

If it is further neglected, this model of governance will continue to create severe imbalances in the functioning of state and society. Without an agreed framework for their peaceful resolution, these imbalances could harden and spread out, weakening the state itself and making the search for solutions so much more difficult.

But in the all-consuming passion of power politics and partisanship on display for quite some time, there is little realisation that this lingering dilemma in governance needs to be urgently resolved. The serious schisms and imbalances being generated by this model could well be making business as usual a fairytale in the future as non-peaceful means of advancing different agendas could nurture overwhelming negative forces all around.

The government and the opposition need to have a third party in their deliberations — independent and respected members of civil society — as moderators to assist their dialogue towards a non-partisan and fair model of governance, which respects the will of the people, is accountable to the rule of law and resolves conflicts of interest in a universally acknowledged peaceful and democratic manner.

The writer is former head of Board of Investment and federal secretary.

e-mail: smshah@alum.mit.edu

Of cricketers and politicians

By S. Khalid Husain

PAKISTANIS finally have something to cheer about: their ‘new look’ cricket team. It won against top-notch teams in the T20 tournament in South Africa and came within a shot of breaking India’s ‘annoying habit’ of always pipping Pakistan in games outside the subcontinent.

The recipe for the South African accomplishment seems to have been a raw coach, a fresh captain, a mix of new players, minus chunks of old players, minus traces of beards, minus a trouble-making pace man, minus a cluster of gratuitous PCB worthies on a free ride.

After the good showing of the ‘new look’ cricket team, the politicians are probably wondering why they can’t follow the ‘new look’ recipe of the cricket team to pull their political parties and groupings out of the wasteland.

However, stimulating the cricket team’s ‘new look’ recipe will not be easy for the politicians. To begin with, where will they find a raw coach? There is no coach, raw, rare, medium, or well done, who can coach Pakistani politicians.

A political party cannot get a fresh leader, for the present one will not leave, and it cannot remove the leader for then there will be no party. Unlike the cricket team which has potential players knocking at the door to get in, political parties cannot attract new ‘dramatis personae’, for they will join the show only when the party is in power or likely to be.

The discards from the national cricket team normally recharge their batteries on the domestic circuit and return to the national side after regaining form. Some lucky ones get picked by the English county sides such as Mushtaq by Sussex. He’s done such a fabulous job of spinning the ball.

The politicians can follow domestic, or ‘via UK’, routes as the cricketers do. On the domestic route, they can begin by being effective in their own constituency by building a track record of service there. Misbah ul Haq, the new batting sensation of the Pakistan cricket team, did not just emerge out of the blue. He worked long and hard in domestic cricket before making it to the national team. A US senator’s first election win was as his town’s dog catcher.

Pakistan is one of the few exceptions where first timers ‘manage’ to get elected directly to parliament. Many of the MPs probably do not even know the exact location of their constituency. This is akin to a player being selected for the national cricket team on the basis of his grandfather having seen Don Bradman play.

The politicians can also take the ‘via UK’ route as Altaf Bhai, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Altaf Bhai has been in London for so long, and with a British passport to boot, if he were as good a politician as Mushtaq is a spin bowler, he should by now have been the lord mayor of London.

What a reception he would have received not just by the MQM but the whole city of Karachi if he were to land in Karachi in full regalia. But Karachiites have to settle for the Karachi nazim tearing the city apart.

Benazir and Nawaz have been in London long enough to have done more than just work on improving their looks. If they were half as good politicians as Younus Khan is a batsman, their presence in London would have been reassuring for British Pakistanis. The two should have become an effective lobby in UK for remedying the harsh image of British Pakistanis in the eyes of their British compatriots.

But this was not to be. Altaf Bhai continues with his telephone tirades. Benazir and Nawaz keep up their harangues on democracy and rule of law after dishonouring both during their tenures. The only route the politicians seem to know is via the GHQ.

The writer is a retired corporate executive

Email: husainsk@cyber.net.pk

Meanwhile, back in the trenches

By Sherry Rehman

BEHIND the headlines of a presidential election, which has thrust Pakistan into a constitutional and political crisis, the country continues to suffer a deadly challenge to its very survival as a functional state. The growth and resurgence of emboldened extremists continues to form a dangerous backdrop to power jockeying in Islamabad.

Afghanistan and Iraq, which were once cited as examples of anarchic implosion, now notch up terror death statistics equal to ours. Suicide bombings and jihadist rage rack up a 100 bodies a month now, while the political centre continues to lose its grip on the country.

After Lal Masjid, which festered like an open sore in the heart of the capital, the reaction from the tribal badlands, as they have come to be known, is rocking the ranks of the one institution that was famous for withstanding all such shocks. Yet, very little has been said about the fact that no institution, including the steel-frame of the Pakistan Army, is secure even in their trenches, from such open attack.

Even more disturbing is the absence of an institutional response from either General Musharraf or his surrogates in government to the series of abductions of the military’s soldiers and paramilitary forces, which should have sent red-alert signals to all policymakers.

Nothing surfaces overnight, particularly messages signed in the language of terror. So why are these abductions or surrenders, whatever they are labelled, so critical to security strategy? What links do they have with the overall state of political instability in the country? And what is the nature of the confrontation, as well as the changing tactics employed by the militants?

In order to understand it, let’s just look at the nature of this transmogrifying beast.

Firstly, the army abductions are non-discriminatory in nature. They are not restricted to junior level officers. The 19 Frontier Corps militiamen abducted from South Waziristan in August this year, included a senior officer and a political tehsildar. The 280 soldiers abducted late last month included a colonel and nine other officers.

Similarly, on Sept 1, another 10 FC Corps, paramilitary soldiers and a major were kidnapped in Fata’s Mohmand agency. These are clear proof of the growing confidence of the militants who now use abduction as an effective way of pressing the regime to submit to their demands.

Secondly, the attacks now carry a clear political as well as violent message. The fearlessness of the militants stems from the “success” of the abduction of the FC militiamen in the second week of August. During the time that they held down the soldiers, the militants released a video titled ‘Revenge’, exposing the brutal beheading of one of the abducted soldiers at the hands of a teenaged boy.

The video ran a commentary that ended on questions related to the ‘legitimacy’ of the Jamia Hafsa operation, the detention of A.Q. Khan, the Balochistan operation and the forced disappearance of civilians.

Thirdly, the attacks now focus increasingly on breaking down the confidence and the resolve of the enemy. If the purpose of the video was to shock the audience, it did the job. According to media reports, it took a small group of Taliban fighters to force a surrender of 280 armed soldiers merely by blocking their convoy.

Apparently, not a single bullet was fired by crack soldiers in the world’s sixth largest army. Yet while the much cited Pashtun factor is a serious one, when the pull of blood blocks action on compatriots from a largely Pashtun-Punjabi army, it can never fully account for the loss of will this signifies.

Coupled with the recent abductions, the grisly September killings of 15 soldiers in North Waziristan send a deeply troubling message about the perceived morale of the army. It is demoralising in itself that by July this year, the death toll of Pakistani soldiers in the area had reportedly reached 1,000, since 2004 when the campaign to control terrorists’ movement along the Afghan border started. According to independent sources, the figure runs between 1,000 and 3,000, while thousands have been injured.

The casualties on the national level are far more shocking. In the last two months alone, Pakistani security forces (military, paramilitary, Rangers and police) have lost 229 personnel in various clashes, and attacks by the militants. As the twin attacks on Rawalpindi, and later Tarbela show, high security zones no longer deter suicide attackers.

Fourthly, and equally problematic, is the fact that the militants now operate with clear goals that footprint the pattern of international terrorist missions. To secure the release of 18 abducted soldiers, the militants reportedly extracted the release of 10 suspects who were in government custody. Sources said other demands of the militants included abolition of bunkers and check posts from Shin Ser, Ghut Ser and Nawaz Kot areas.

In Fata, too, the demands seek to cut a wide swathe into the heart of the state’s advances and basically expect a return to the Sararogha Agreement of Feb 2005. This seeks general amnesty for Baitullah Mehsud , the removal of army check posts and patrol advances in the Mehsud-dominated area of South Waziristan.

Clearly, resurgent militants now feel the state is in retreat, and they are in a position to make short- and long-term demands. It also speaks volumes about their claim on certain areas as pitted stubbornly outside state remit. Until a few years ago, such areas were still under the protection of tribal maliks, but are now infiltrated by the more reactionary Taliban.

In areas like Swat, Tank, D.I. Khan, the Taliban started with clampdowns on women, music and culture, yet in all cases the nature of their demands shifted seamlessly from the social to the territorial and political.

None of this of course, covers the release of our captured jawans who continue to be held hostage in remote areas by their tribal captors. The information curtain on this episode is very dense, but reports say that after releasing a group of 26, the militants have made the release of the rest conditional on several heavy demands.

Here, too, the negotiations run like the demands of one state from another: the withdrawal of troops from ‘their’ areas, the removal of military check posts and the release of 20 colleagues held by law-enforcement agencies on charges of terrorism from various operations.

All of the above signals the death rattle of a long, bloody struggle between a regime that is distracted by its own survival stakes, and armed challengers who have grafted a modern terrorist methodology onto a reactionary, dogmatic tribalism. The problem is compounded by the reality that the government has lost its legitimacy as either home-grown or accountable, and has therefore forfeited on the credibility battle so critical for domestic support in such a project.

While an elected civilian government will also be challenged with the fallout of long institutional neglect of the issues involved, domestic support will feed the package of development and security responses both needed to deal with such a complex quagmire. Clear policies will send clear signals and elicit better outcomes.

The last time the army attacked Fata in 2004, more than 700 soldiers were killed. The attack also left dozens of Pashtun soldiers and Frontier Corps men deserted. A few army helicopter pilots reportedly refused to bomb their own fellow citizens.

This shows that the Musharraf regime’s strategy of dealing with tribal discontent and militant ire has not worked for a while. But neither has his strategy of co-opting the JUI, or subverting the spirit of the Constitution, to stay on forever holding all offices. What the Pakistan Army needs is a full-time professional COAS while Pakistan needs a free and fair election where the agencies stay out of the game. Everything will not neatly fall into place, but it will be a start on the right track.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and Central Information Secretary of the Pakistan People’s Party.

© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2007


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