Sunday July 03, 2022

Whose job is it?

November 25, 2019

Since the PTI-led government has entered the second year of heading the affairs of the government; there has been much debate around the question of what is and is not the government’s job. Our erudite ministers also seem confused about what the government's duty is and is not.

Government is one of the most important pillars of the state, and includes the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The latter two are greatly dependent on each other. Ostensibly, their coherence and discordance can influence the performance of both and not only law-making but governance can also be affected. Apparently, this cohesiveness seems to be missing in the current state of affairs.

Under the constitution, the government’s job is to ensure the administration of justice and rule of law. The question is whether rule of law and administration of justice have improved? The legislative record of the current government is depressing. The government has failed to fulfil its job by introducing legislative reforms it had promised in its election manifesto. In fact, on the contrary, instead of legislation and reforms the job has been taken up by the President House as an ordinance factory.

Besides this, in its election manifesto, the PTI had claimedit would provide 10 million jobs to the unemployed youth of the country. Today, unfortunately, government ministers are enlightening us that the provision of jobs is basically not the duty of the government! Sadly, as per the minister the government cannot provide jobs to the public. "Instead, the government is going to disband 400 departments,"

Later on, in a classic U-turn, the minister desired "that the private sector and not the government provides jobs. The government has to create an environment where jobs are available. It shouldn't be the case that everyone is looking for a government job." Today, are the current government policies friendly for economic activities to ensure the provision of 10 million jobs? Or have its policies brought many thousands more on the roads.

We do remember that the PTI had also assured it would build five million houses for all those who dont have a roof on their heads. On the contrary, the government has started an anti-encroachment drive against 'kachi abadis', and opted to regularize the intruded land of Banigala.

Besides the inflated claim of establishing a state-of-the-art university at the PM House, the government had also undertaken to prioritize education and take it to international standards. Instead, it has cut the education budget. As a result, major public-sector universities are in a fix, being unable to pay salaries to their staff. Forget about research grants and scholarships, education institutions have no other means and options but to raise the fees to the sky and put it all on students’ shoulders.

On the economic front, the business community is dejected. The dollar is at around 160, the prices of necessary day-to-day food items and medicine are sky-high, inflation is towering on a record high, and gas, electricity, petroleum products have shot to the sky. The prices of everything have gone high enough to even be unbearable by the lower and middle class. Salaries have decreased while taxes have increased and interest rates are at a peak.

The government is making towering claims about enhancing the tax net and being successful in the implementation of the IMF programme. Here, the question is whether the government's job is the collection of tax and taking foreign loans only. Is the government assumed to be mandated for the smooth implementation of the IMF programme only or does it also have the responsibility to assess the repercussions and safeguard not only people’s rights but to keep it as priority no 1? Why is the business community agitating against government policies when the government is claiming everything is magnificent?

For long, the local governments have ceased to work after the completion of their tenure.Is it not the government's job to conduct timely local bodies elections, in accordance with the constitution, and then devolve power to them?

Unfortunately, it is believed that during the past year space for human right activists and journalists has shrunk and there has been a consistemt threat to individuals’ fundamental right of freedom of expression. Is it not the government's job to ensure freedom of the media and protect human rights defenders and activists?

The Supreme Court has rightly held that it is the responsibility of the state to secure the well-being of the people by raising their standard of living – by providing facilities for adequate livelihood with rest and leisure. The state should make available the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for all citizens, irrespective of sex, creed or race.

In a democratic realm, the government generally follows state duty under the constitution, especially the rights protected and preserved under the fundamental rights and the principles of policy in the constitution. Further, governments also desist from dishonouring the people's mandate.

In case, there is no clarity over what the government's job is, there are two possibilities: one, that the government lacked planning for the practical execution of the promises it made to the people or that the sky-high claims were limited to statements only.

Further, if the government is incapable of guaranteeing the facilities available in other democratic countries across the world, it should at least ensure the minimum standard for the people, and the existing fundamental rights should not be encroached further. In democratic systems, it is the people who decide what the government's job is and is not.

The writer is a Peshawar-based lawyer.

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