A LONG time ago while studying in the UK, a discussion amongst my group of Pakistani friends centred on Pakistan’s plight.
We all wondered why we cannot progress like many other countries, particularly in the West. The reasons we posited varied from the hilarious to the extremely serious. I would like to share with you one explanation we did not come up with at the time, as I discovered it gradually after spending decades here, and that is the presence of the wrong person at almost every public position.
I say ‘public’ as this may not always be true for private positions. It is an extremely serious issue that is getting worse with time. From top to bottom, analyse anyone holding a position whether at the political, bureaucratic or judicial level and you discover that the person is usually incompetent, inefficient and, many times, corrupt.
A few examples should suffice to illustrate the point. And it is possible that even this may not be required as any person of average intelligence can discover it for themselves.
People making the appointments in Pakistan tend to be insecure and thus select their relatives and toadies, who can follow their instructions and not intrigue against them. The selection criteria is seldom if ever based on whether the person is suitable; much more important is the assurance that the person will remain subservient and in the appointer’s camp for all times to come.
Subservience to authority rather than a suitability is the selection criteria.
This situation is different from that in the developed world where the appointer during selection is not thinking of his own interests but those of the country and the institution where the appointment is being made. As a result, the institutions in the latter category of countries thrive and advance while they deteriorate further in our part of the world.
After all, what kind of result can one expect if a Master’s in Islamiat or Urdu literature is appointed head of the space programme or the food authority or agricultural research? And a Master’s in physics is put in charge of higher education? And so on and so forth. Sometimes of course, one can develop an interest in a field that is different from the subject that one is educated in; after all, one need not be an MBA to excel in business.
If you look at the political parties’ setup you realise that their leaders appoint people at key positions with a view to having their party members, and governing and executive committees, endorse their decisions. All candidates selected to contest elections are chosen on the basis of their relations with the party leadership and their ability to remain subservient at all times.
Some research would uncover that legislators from each province and each party are often inter-linked. It thus becomes difficult if not impossible for an outsider to enter the political fray. Now compare this with the members of the UK House of Commons or the US House of Representatives where even children of bus conductors or tailors or immigrants can aspire to become members. The difference in quality is there for all to see in the proceedings of the houses.
The judiciary has lately started declaring many appointments unconstitutional. Although the judgements are many times unclear and do not really point in a decisive direction, judicial intrusion results in further retarding the process of appointments; the governmental and bureaucratic authorities sometimes get such cold feet that they refuse to take any decision. Some say that the process of appointments within the superior judiciary itself suffers from the same ailment.
Some appointees are office-bearers of the bar associations who just a few years back were asking their lawyer colleagues for votes. How can they suddenly change upon assuming the office of a judge, and do justice while listening to the same colleagues, is worth pondering.
This is a chronic national problem and not something that can easily be resolved. And it is for this very reason the private sector at times thrives where the governmental one fails to perform.
The private sector is motivated by the need to make a profit; all other considerations fade into the background.
The governmental sector meanwhile is not to serve but to simply find employment and make money for yourself and your family.
You may not be interested in the field you are supervising and may lack the incentive to serve the institution you are in, but as long as you are serving your masters and making some money for them and for yourself, you are doing just fine in Pakistan.
The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2018