The tyranny of bureaucracy: HOT TOPICS

DR ZAFAR ALTAF
DR ZAFAR ALTAF

August 03, 2013

DR ZAFAR ALTAF

The visible conflict between bureaucracy and political system does not seem to abate and as long as we Pakistanis are what we are this conflict will intensify and increase. My brief is not for bureaucracy and neither is it for politicians who could have given this country a better system of governance. They too must take some of the blame for what is going on. The common man in the meantime is suffering the consequences of maladministration.

Since one is not in the habit of pointing fingers at anyone, suffice it to say that the land of the pure has lost its angels. It is now full of a population that seeks advantages for itself. First things first for as way back as 1985 while working as Chief Economist the civil service was warned that if they do not mend their ways and if they continued to be a plasticene bureaucracy bending ever bending to the desires of the power blocks they will sooner or later be cast aside. This happened when Musharraf decided on the reforms that deformed the entire structures. All of a sudden the field agencies were the hardest hit for they were operating at the front lines of the civic services and they were in direct communication with the demands and desires of the local politician and the population. The population’s demands on the Deputy Commissioner were generally against the wishes of the local power blocks. One way or the other the Deputy Commissioner was to give a decision for or against the conflicting parties they stood to lose out.

In Pakistan anonymous applications are the order of the day and any aggrieved would use this weapon when a decision was contrary to the demands of either party. Over the years they lost their spinal cord. No one least of all General Naqvi understood the outcome of what they had done. The pied piper’s tune was played for the sake of convenience. What are the characteristics of the civil service: 1. they spend other people’s money; and 2. they have a bottom line as proof of success that is very difficult and different to define and assess. Under these circumstances the Pakistani bureaucracy, whatever and whoever they may be, tried to become more powerful in which selfish interests were involved. Once the bureaucrats became more powerful he could ride rough shod and satisfy his broader or his narrow interests at will. This is usually done by an ever expansionist policy and having more people under his command and control. Every bureaucracy believes and understands that the way it conducts its affairs is the best, arguably the tyranny of the status quo emerges. This is only challenged when a government changes or when there is a serious crisis as in the East Pakistan situation. Things simply have to change to reflect the aspirations of the people. The bureaucracy is like a turtle on a fence post (especially during regime change) waiting to see which way the political wind will blow for there is no serious issue on knowledge and merit to let the civil servant work and in continuation of polices but his survival depends on personalised loyalty. A tyrannical political boss on a tyrannical bureaucracy is indicative of gross abuse by administrators. Democracy in Pakistan is based on suspicion and that is why we have for election purposes a caretaker position of PM at the federation level and CM in each of the provinces. These are usually picked by agreement but the method is faulty ab initio, by definition, from the very start. For this is not a very objective system but based on how pliable the caretakers can be to the authority that is not de jure but de facto.

Bureaucratic inertia is always noticeable. The inertia is built into the recruitment system and has been, I am afraid furthered by the political system and the fact is well revealed by the Balochistan packages (three of them I am told), in which roughly 800 people have been recruited to ameliorate the wrongs done to the province and this in agriculture research at the behest of the various ministers that belonged to that province. Unfortunately, it is almost the reverse as these individuals are going to be around for almost 40 years. What is the province going to do with 40 years of incompetence? The province will bleed and keep on bleeding for 40 years. Those that have been recruited in the past and before the new government’s induction are likely to feel the wrath of the new political system. This long tenure of the bureaucrats also works against them for they are in position for a longer period then the politician in power-whose political tenure is generally five years. The longer staying power gives them a stronger position and where the new government is tackling policies and scandals, or assumed wrongful activities of the previous government the whip hand is with the bureaucrats. Their crimes can be of omission and commission. Generally the investigative work done by the involved agencies is very slipshod. I have seen cases last for 13 years in a court of law only to lead to the dismissal of cases. But that is a different story. Vindictiveness and suspicion is rampant in the attitudes and values of this country. Snitchers and backbiters have a field day. No false whistleblower has ever been taken to account. Pakistan is a massive failure in developing harmony within and amongst communities. In fact the policies have led to serious issues of eliminations of people of Karachi, Balochistan, KPK and in Fata area of Parachinar. Are these sectarian in nature or what?

Pakistan’s politicians have to answer to a lot of questions as these problems have been brewing for quite some time. This is a situation that is worse than war. The proxy war that we are involved in is with an unidentified enemy. The incompetence in the law and order agency smacks of stagnation and indolence (news coming in of D.I Khan jail attack). The country is unable to run. Pakistan’s experiment with all kinds of management systems at the behest of other nations has been at the forefront of this disaster that the country is facing. Here is virtually no upgrading of human abilities and virtually none retooling and revamping of human resources. Modern technology has also done its bit. The verbal garbage that comes through is no one’s business. In the absence of a law of torts the electronic and the print media and the public at large and the whistle blower can say anything and get way with it. Consider the useless staff in every organisation. The ministries are working at the level of the lowest common denominator. The ministries that are supposed to be working at the policy level for the country have created no new innovative interventions to remove any of the issues be it the macroeconomic ones or the micro issues that the industry is supposed to deal with. To ask a question is to answer it. In social system, the cure lies in working to understand the constraints and the limits that societal norms impose on those working the system. The knowledge leads to interventions that affect a cure. These days there are again issues that have to be addressed and these will keep on increasing. The policing system has broken down, the harmony in the system is no longer apparent and the increase in conflicts is indicative of the surge that is coming through. Can we stop it? Check the tools in the repertoire of the politician and the bureaucracy and one will find that the essentials are missing. Courtesy Business Recorder

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Published in ZaraiMedia.com
Hot Topics, Food for Thought,

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