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Opinion

February 26, 2015

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Can we go back to normal?

When a provincial legislator of Sindh chose to defend the presence of the federal leadership in an apex huddle to deliberate on the progress in fighting terror in his province, he offered a misplaced explanation – which sits at the heart of how and why the entire formulation of the National Action Plan (NAP) is misunderstood, and thus unattended. He stated: “This war against terror is a ‘war’ that can only be fought by the military”, clearly oblivious of the systemic accompaniments that go with any fourth generation war beyond the mere application of force.
Governments govern; when they don’t societies go haywire – to the point of disintegration. They lose cohesion and live in fissures that grow deep enough to become permanent divisions. Inversely, geographically spread nations such as Russia and China develop coagulating dynamics around which a physically dispersed people can share common stakes and retain the association in a hope for an inclusive and equitable disposition. Variations will remain, but a semblance of hope is that key that will override minor disequilibrium and deter fissiparity.
Governance is that administrative link that leaves people with a sense of inclusion around a set of rules and laws that are uniformly applied. In essence someone is in control and is seen and known to apply the principles of coexistence equally to all. Governments provide that all-important equity and thus the resulting comfort. To govern then, there must be laws that appear to be fair and are equally applied under a mechanism that ensures just implementation. Rule of law, its observance and, where violated, fair retribution, are the central principles around which nations are formed and sustained.
When laws don’t exist, or are not observed when they exist, or are not applied because the implementing authority is either weak or negligent or preferential towards some or simply has lost its capacity to apply such law, the rule of the jungle will

dominate and society stops being one. That is when nations fail and turn into Banana republics.
A governing mechanism will not function because either it doesn’t exist, or it has simply failed to function. Similarly the government must be complete in its structure to be able to govern and let its impact be felt at all levels of society. Pakistan’s governmental structure is three-layered: federal, provincial, and local in the shape of district, tehsil, municipal and union councils. Clearly the lowest rung is the one that touches people’s lives and gives them that all-important sense of enfranchisement in a democratic disposition and cultivates a sense of belonging, shared stakes and common purpose, ensuring cohesion as a nation.
Pakistan’s local government system is pretty robust in its formulation. It is meant to devolve not only aspects of governance but of responsibility and authority. However, it remains neglected. Elections to the third tier of government have not been held, except lately in Balochistan, leaving the government incomplete in its institution. No government means no governance. No governance means no rule of law – only the law of the jungle.
Absence of rule of law spurs individuals to act in their favour, of their free will, without regard to societal or legal considerations. Schools come up in single-room shacks; mosques and madressahs mushroom – many in a single locality – forcing each then to first form fiefs and then to protect those. Clinics, businesses of all kinds, proliferate manned by quacks and conmen respectively. Society degenerates to an illegal entity finding succour in mutual sustenance. One crime protects another and so goes the cycle of expanding illegitimacy.
Crime syndicates, militant wings and support structures evolve. Extortion, target-killing, kidnap-for ransom, ethnic cleansing, terrorism and insurgency, talk of an ill and it will find takers as well as those who will sponsor these. All because of lack of rule of law.
There are processes to establishing rule of law including those who will make laws, those who will administer them, those who will judge both the implementation and the violation of it and suggest attribution or retribution, and those who will account for all these processes. In short governance anywhere is built around the legislatures at all levels – district and tehsil councils included; the police and the bureaucracy – essentially the administrative machinery that will ensure that laws get applied, the judiciary that will try the violators or qualify the application when a dispute arises, and the government that holds all accountable to the processes. This is called the governance cycle.
A government that is incomplete, even at full efficiency, can only partially govern – large swathes of land being neglected in the absence of local governments. A machinery consisting of the police, administrative bureaucracy and the judiciary cannot govern if it stands compromised either at the hands of their accounting masters, the politicians, or of the criminal syndicates who grease their palms to seek safety with impunity even as they hit at the foundations of a stable societal system. Pakistan suffers from such maladies. If a government itself stands compromised, accountability is absent. This leads to mayhem.
Pakistan’s failures have been multiple. Where policy nurtured militancy, poor governance fostered its prevalence. Systems that were meant to keep militancy in check and control became the conduits for its pervasiveness. Today this amalgam is toxic. Even if at face value policy is known to have been reversed, can the governance structures win back what has been lost? Can we be a normal society again?
Begin with the machinery. Can the police be resuscitated? There are examples of incidental morality and professional conduct but can that prescribe wholesome therapy? A gradual replacement of the existing structures by making police independent of the political manipulation is important but can change in structures help? Changes such as community policing; a metropolitan police system; separating structures based on the various roles of the police placed under separate accountability heads? Devolving the police control function-wise should make the police more responsive, and make it function as intended.
Pakistan’s judicial system is highly inefficient and in dire need for reforms and structural reorientation to become more responsive. To begin with all appointments to higher courts must be ratified by parliament. Parliament’s sovereignty means that all sub-structures of the state must remain answerable to it.
Bureaucracy is the real elephant in the room. Tasked to govern it has instead lost its spirit and its soul. Rotting at its core, it is no more the backbone that formed the spine in governance. Can it revert somewhat to how it was intended to be, or should we induct the American system instead where political administration will bring in at least the three top layers of bureaucracy to ensure that its policies do not lapse because of an inefficient or unwilling bureaucratic machinery? These are the issues in structures that we need to grapple with.
Governance is a process, not an ideology; and a sine qua non for a societal system to sustain. The National Action Plan in its suggestion to register and monitor madressahs, to account for their system of funding, to look at their syllabus to ensure it conforms to a cohesive, integrated society, and to stop dissemination of hatred and violence stresses about that essential part of governance that will defeat terror as a threat to Pakistan.
Fighting terror is not only the army’s responsibility but a governmental and societal obligation too. That is what my Sindhi legislator friend needs to know and understand.
The writer is a retired air-vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force and served as its deputy chief of staff. Email: [email protected]

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