Good governance

20 Oct 2018

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The writer is a former civil servant.
The writer is a former civil servant.

ONE has often heard the prime minister emphasise the importance of good governance by quoting examples of Singapore and Switzerland, which are two of the richest countries in the world, with few natural resources, due to good governance. If the first 60 days of the PTI government are any guide on moving towards good governance, the signs are not very happy.

The Punjab inspector general of police was changed a month after his posting and made an example of for not obeying orders. If there was any doubt, the information minister said the same day that, “we have given a clear message to the bureaucracy that we want work done”. Nothing could be more direct as the term ‘work done’ is interchangeable with compliance, regardless of rules or written orders.

Nasir Durrani, the former IG KP on whom Imran Khan had pinned all hopes of fixing the police in Punjab, was allowed to leave for ‘health reasons’, even though the actual reasons are all too obvious due to the timing — he left immediately after the removal of the IG Punjab. It is obvious that the powers that be wanted him out, but expressed their helplessness because of his ‘health’.

In which direction is the PM headed?

The two deputy commissioners who took up the cudgels against the politicians on the encouragement provided by the prime minister’s statements were not only reprimanded, but issued show-cause notices for dismissal from service.

In the Pakpattan incident, even though the chief minister, the IG and the intermediary Ahsan Jameel Gujjar apologised unconditionally, thus admitting their guilt, the district police officer who was transferred was not restored to his job. While the main players apologised to the Supreme Court, the person who was wronged remained punished.

This is not to criticise Imran Khan, but to evaluate where he is heading, with the hope of a review from him. After an acrimonious struggle, and the cost the country has had to pay to get him in power, Pakistan does not have an option for failure.

Police reforms is what the prime minister had built his governance style on in KP, and rightly so, because improving police performance has a maximum beneficial impact on the lives of the common man. One was hoping that in the presence of an individual who had fixed the KP police recently and who is aware of the realities of Punjab having served in the province for 30 years, the task would be doable. What went wrong?

The lynchpin of the reforms carried out in KP was to give all powers of postings and transfers and reward and punishment to the IG. That is how it should be in all departments, especially in a uniformed force. The army is as effective as it is because no politician can interfere in its internal working. This proposed independence has not found favour with the MPAs/ MNAs in Punjab or with coalition partners. But then, that was to be expected.

In KP also, the MPAs and MNAs were not delighted at the withdrawal of their powers to interfere in the postings and transfer of the police and the civil bureaucracy. But there Prime Minister Khan resisted their pressure and kept supporting the IG and achieved a landslide election victory. In Punjab, he seems to have succumbed to blackmail, even though in KP, the PTI lead in the provincial assembly was precariously positioned.

In the case of removal of the IG Punjab, it was said that he was not implementing the verbal orders of the chief minister (at the request of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek) to transfer all police officers involved in the Model Town incident. By all accounts, PAT does not have the same political clout as the PML-Q in the Punjab Assembly. So where was the need to sacrifice the IG when the stability of his tenure and powers were the main plank of the proposed reforms?

In effect, the IG was transferred to keep PAT happy and Nasir Durrani was allowed to go because the PTI seems to have given up on reforms, like the ones in KP, as the threat of coalition partners is too scary for them.

The criterion of selection of the chief minister in Punjab is also becoming clear. There was a need for a compliant person without his own group so that the province could be administered from Islamabad. This stemmed from the perception that Pervez Khattak in KP only achieved a fraction of what he could have, but Imran Khan could not remove him because of his political clout.

But what all can Imran Khan achieve alone? He cannot run the federal government, the governments of Punjab and KP, the housing initiative etc single-handedly. In any case, he has often stated that the success of the Shaukat Khanum hospital has been because he does not interfere and everything is run by professionals on the basis of rules.

Why would running Punjab and KP be different from Shaukat Khanum? He had someone to blame in KP. Whom would he blame in Punjab?

The writer is a former civil servant.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2018