The need for a new governance system

December 04, 2022

The society needs sharing of powers among state functionaries, civil society, and the private sector

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he Pakistani society is currently faced with multi-dimensional conflicts and crises. It seems that the problems faced by the people are multiplying every day. These include, but are not limited to, large-scale poverty, prevalence of extreme social attitudes resulting in terrorism, economic problems, child sexual abuse, honour killing and bloody feuds.

The state, its apparatus and its institutions have not addressed these conflicts in a satisfactory manner despite the commitment and desire among many of its functionaries to rise to the challenge. For instance, the state has been able to defeat the religious terrorist groups like the Taliban but not to control extremism and intolerant behaviours that have persisted among the clerics and the youth, even professionals like doctors, lawyers and teachers.

An important factor in this failure to address conflicts and crises in Pakistan is the top decision-makers and implementers of these decisions. The conflicts and crises are not unique to Pakistan. Many societies and states are experiencing or have experienced similar problems.

Most states today have developed mass societies whose problems are non-traditional and complex. Mass societies are developed on the basis of impersonal and need-based social interaction. These societies are mostly urban and peri-urban and have large memberships requiring institutionalised, instead of personalised, conflict resolution and need-fulfillment mechanisms. This, in turn, calls for a new kind of governance unlike the conventional governance system and structures.

Some scholars call this approach “new governance. The very term, governance, became a household word when in the 1970s and 1980s many hierarchical states failed to address the issues and problems of most of the people in their territories and take care of their basic needs. Consequently, people started losing faith in the state. The focus then shifted from the government to governance.

Pakistan’s political parties and politicians did not adopt the new governance. All our politicians, including the former prime minister Imran Khan, have been living in the past. Every government has been pointing time and again towards its past ‘achievements’. Additionally, Khan has been making loud noises about the allegations of corruption against Bhuttos and Sharifs.

The new approach to governance values the system and structure of the governing apparatus. To an extent, it has been able to address the policy demands. Our governments have ignored this aspect of governance.

The new approach to governance values the system and structure of the governing apparatus. To an extent, it has been able to address people’s demands. Our government has ignored this aspect of governance. There is no doubt that history is important and without addressing the historical wrongs one cannot make progress. However, the state and the government have found themselves incapacitated to cleanse the Augean Stables. This is due to the focus on the traditional approach to governance.

The problems faced by the Pakistani society, or for that matter any society, need a holistic, multi-jurisdictional and networked approach. For instance, the issue of unemployment among the youth cannot be addressed by the Ministries of Finance and Economic Affairs acting alone. Rather, the education, social welfare, youth affairs, economic affairs and foreign affairs ministries, governments at the local level as well as the civil society and private sectors have to work together to address it.

Such networking to address the needs of the people is at the heart of the ‘new governance’ approach. This approach is non-hierarchical, unlike the conventional approach to governance, our politicians and civilian bureaucrats steeped in the old thinking and behaviours relying on a chain of command and authority have been reluctant to adopt it. Resultantly, the issues and problems have remained unresolved. In fact, we are seeing the social issues and problems multiply.

The new governance approach is not acceptable to some civil servants because it requires them to share their authority and powers with other stakeholders. These shareholders include the private sector, non-for-profit voluntary organisations and the market. The society needs this sharing of powers among state functionaries, civil society and the private sector for resolution of its conflicts, solution to its problems and fulfillment of its needs.


The writer is a political economy and security analyst and a governance and public policy practitioner. He can be contacted at razamzaigmail.com



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