IN SEARCH OF GOOD GOVERNANCE

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Aug 2 - 8, 20
10

Norms, rules, laws and constitution provide the code of conduct for individuals and institutions. Rulers have to bear the brunt because they are considered role model of the society. For the Muslims Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the best role model and his integrity was fully recognised even by his worst enemies as they called him Sadiq and Ameen. He was provided the guidelines by Allah, through Holy Quaran. In fact, Quaran provides the best guidelines for leading a spotless life. The last sermon of the Holy Prophet is worth reading for all those who believe in good governance. It is not only for the common man to obey the rules but demand the rulers to act as torch-bearer and the role models.

It is only over the last couple of decades that the words like ethics, good governance and maximum disclosures have become known. Mostly these expressions are used as cliché rather than in the true spirit.

Since Asif Ali Zardari has assumed the office of President, a debate is going on whether he could be trialed or not. While many of his opponents want him to face the prosecution, his loyalists (than the king) say 'he enjoys immunity in one or the other way' and till he is in office no proceedings against him can be initiated. However, every one forgets that when Hazrat Omer and Hazrat Ali were asked to appear before Qazi (judge) neither of them refused to appear despite being the Caliph of those times. The reason was simple that they strongly believed that creating an exception would lead to many ills in the society. They also wanted to prove that if Caliph is accountable no one could claim immunity.

In the business schools students are taught ethics as a subject because management of a company is accountable to all the stakeholders. It becomes even greater responsibility when ownership is segregated from management. Professional managers have to work within the policy framework provided to them by the board of directors, which is accountable to shareholders. All their acts have to be ratified at the annual general meeting and at time they have to face the nastiest questions.

At the annual general meeting of one of listed commercial banks, also having huge foreign investment, situation got real precarious when shareholders refused to approve annual accounts. Some of them even went to the extent of demanding adjournment. Pakistan has no history of adjourning the annual general meeting. Though, the accounts were approved subsequently, the situation could have turned real nasty had a few shareholders not pacified the angry shareholders. The grudge of the shareholders is genuine as they have not received any dividend and value of the share of the said bank has also reduced to one-tenth. Though, the management holds 'circumstances' responsible for huge accumulated losses, bad management practices have also contributed to these losses.

Widening the canvas and evaluating deeds and misdeeds to the rulers makes it a perfect case study of blatant violation of good governance. Pakistan's history is a replete with examples where the authority of decision-making has been in the hands of one person, both during military and civilian reigns. In these situations, power has been deliberately and/or inadvertently abused and the legitimacy and sustainability of power grabbed by the executive could not be hindered, as a result of lack of separation of powers. This trend prevails because powers have traditionally been 'fused' and the checks and balances, which could act as safeguards against abuse of power could not be asserted.

Understanding the concept of separation of powers in Pakistan's context is important. In Pakistan like any other constitutional democracy, the powers of the government are meant to be divided so that the legislature makes laws, the executive authority carries them out and the judiciary operates independently, with a comprehensive system of checks and balances.

All the segments of the society preach good governance but resist it at every level. Often the resistance by politicians and bureaucratese emerge the biggest opponents of good governance. In many cases bureaucracy does not own the programs at all. Pakistan's dismal state of development is due to its weak performance in delivering some of the basic services to its people. More than one-third of total population lives below the poverty line. Despite tripling of the GDP in the last 50 years there are wide disparities of development status across regions and between men and women. Compared to the other countries of similar GDP level, Pakistan spends least on healthcare, education an infrastructure development. Bulk of the annual budget is spent on non-developmental expenditures. While MPAs, MNAs and Senators are paid billions of rupees every year their contribution in legislation is the least. It is estimated that more than half of the honorable members never open their mouths, except for approving hike in their salaries and perks.

The time has come to let every Pakistani know and fully understand the definition of good governance. All the actors (government, civil society and politicians) must demonstrate accountability, transparency, performance management and predictability in focused poverty reduction programs. Larger political issues often prevent the government and the donors to agree over a reform agenda. Therefore, governance reforms must aim at improving the overall rights context to protect oppressed groups, perishing tribes and minorities. Without addressing the national, political roots of governance crises, efforts to build capacity for good governance at lower levels will not yield a meaningful improvement in basic services for the people.