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Our government is MIA — now real work can be done

Updated March 30, 2015

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In what transpired between August 17 and 25, the state was successfully able to get its way and rid itself of operational command of the government.  —Reuters
In what transpired between August 17 and 25, the state was successfully able to get its way and rid itself of operational command of the government. —Reuters

The work of legislation and running the country had come to a standstill because the Khan of Zaman Park and the bureaucratic Sharifs of Raiwind were trying to come to terms over two seats in Lahore.

While these two were busy quibbling on TV instead of doing their jobs for two years, the 'state' decided to run itself.

Just to clarify, the 'state' means the military, judiciary and bureaucracy – institutions which are not elected. Meanwhile, the elected ones, whose job it really was to be heading the affairs, have failed to deliver.

Also read: Progress on poll inquiry

In what transpired between August 17 and 25, the state was successfully able to get its way and rid itself of the operational command of the government.

Things have started to look up

So now that the state is running the show where do we stand? What do we need and how are we going to go about it?

To start with, the state has taken some tough decisions to put the house in order. In the last year and a half, no tough decisions were taken. That has thankfully been corrected as the state has finally decided to take terrorism head on.

That might be partly due to the fact that the Americans are exiting Afghanistan and the strategic depth mantra is all set to reap its rewards (do not hold your breath as this is going to blow up in their face like all of their other plans).

The long-held belief argues that once the Americans are gone, Pakistan will be able to become the power broker in Afghanistan, and by doing this, will be able to protect its western borders and improve its security. Additionally, the original visionaries wanted to play out their imperialistic fetishes in Afghanistan too.

Either way, the state has gone on an offensive. It is reaping its rewards along with the backlash that was expected. The fight is long but at least it is on now.

Secondly, the state is trying to clean the political house. The government is too weak to correct itself and extend influence to improve governance, so the state is doing it. Be it through judiciary, commissions, or backdoor deals, the state is in action and it seems to be genuine in its wish to correct past mistakes.

Read on: National transformation vision

This clearing will take much longer as the original mistakes were made by the state. Karachi and Balochistan are some of the major issues that need to be addressed.

Although the state still chooses to be selective with its 'religious' assets, sooner rather than later, it will have to address those as well; ideally, the sooner the better of course.

Minorities have been targeted left right and centre in Pakistan for years now. Throughout, the state had put the blame on the government for not being able to lay down the law, but now that the state is in charge, that excuse is gone.

The state has to clean up its double act and provide the protection that the minorities and every single citizen of Pakistan deserves.

Civil service reforms right now would be good

The crux of Pakistan’s problem is that we have been ruled by law but we do not have the rule of law. The state is coercive and has always been. That needs to change.

For once, they have a chance to bring that change and create a country where rule of law governs instead of governance by law. In the long run, rule of law is going to stabilise Pakistan. In an elitist system like ours, putting the law above everyone is a tough job, but even a partial push would reap long term benefits.

Civil service reform is imperative in this regard, and with local government elections appearing on the horizon, it is only a suitable time to push them through.

Also read: Flight of fantasy

While large-scale civil reform may still be a distant dream in Pakistan, I am arguing for limited reform to get the ball rolling; something along the lines of professionalising certain services and taking them off the the Civil Service system of Pakistan.

That would mean recruiting people directly into the service and taking away the whole notion of deputation. Ideally, it should happen for all services but as a start, smaller services can have this reform.

Overhauling development funds

Localising governance through local government elections would go a long way to strengthen the state’s ability to deliver, but that cannot happen without a financial overhauling of the system as it stands right now.

Unless funds are given directly to local governments, while bypassing the provincial governments, nothing would really change. At the federal level, the concept of development funds for members of parliaments need to end and that can only happen if the state actively pushes for it.

Also read: Power politics: 3 serious governance issues nobody is talking about

The state finally has complete control of Pakistan, ceded to it by an indifferent government.

As the government is too busy resolving issues in different neighbourhoods of Lahore, the state will have to protect the republic and deliver basic necessities to the citizens.

A stronger state will help our democracy in the long run only if they can push through the reforms that are needed while taking tough decisions that are required.

Our republic is at stake here.

Our government is unwilling to work.

The state is left to clean the mess which, honestly speaking, they are equally to blame for.

But the difference is, the state still has the capacity while the government, our politicians, are simply incapable of looking beyond their provinces and their navels.