Sunday June 23, 2024

Voices in the wilderness

By Azam Khalil
January 20, 2016

There is an old adage that says if there was no greed, swindlers and conmen would be out of business. It seems greed has overwhelmed our society at all levels and hence there is no solution in sight of the multiple problems that are being faced by the people of this country.

One can hear voices against corruption, malpractices and misuse of authority but all these voices die because no one pays any heed to them. If we begin with the political elite, we soon find out that most of them are neck deep in all these sins and thrive instead of being condemned by society. A democratic government is supposed to be answerable to its electorate. But in this country even members of the National Assembly fail to get relevant replies from the ministries, which as a matter of routine either come out with the wrong data or outright refuse to answer the questions raised by parliamentarians.

Let us evaluate keeping in view the standard procedures defined as good governance in the provinces and then in the federal government. If one looks at the government of the PTI and its allies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa one is amazed that while they are very high on rhetoric, some of their ministers – including the chief minister – are embroiled in cases of nepotism and even malpractice. However, we saw two to three of their ministers being sacked when the shadow of corruption and misuse of authority fell on them.

This does not mean that otherwise they were moving in the right direction because even after pumping hundred percent more budget in the health sector – 100 percent more than what was budgeted by the previous government – the health services of the province remain in poor shape and the common citizen suffers day in and day out due to non-existent health facilities in the province. Similarly, clean drinking water and education remain in poor shape and no visible measures have been put in place to prove that the government is indeed disturbed at the present state of affairs.

Moving on to Sindh, governance there seems to be at a standstill with an ageing chief minister who is not the master of most of what is happening in his province. Some of the province’s ministers have been indicted and have run away from the country, and the bureaucracy seems to be having a field day in the province with no improvement in sight. This situation is likely to hurt not only the interests of the people of Sindh but may affect the entire country. Even here the provision of clean drinking water and health services remain in bad shape and after hundreds of deaths due to malnourishment no effective measures seem to have been put in place to improve the situation in Tharparkar; the rest of the countryside in the province is no better than that drought stricken area either.

While the province needs to rethink priorities, it continues to lock horns with the federal government and as such its efficiency – which is already very low – continues to nosedive on a daily basis. This situation needs to be arrested if the PPP’s slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’ is to ever materialise.

Coming to Balochistan, one is simply amazed at the tolerance shown for corruption. In one sadly hilarious case, one of the provincial ministers is reported to have asked his secretary to deposit the entire budget of his department in his personal account so that he feels confident as a minister. With this thinking, one can very well imagine where the priority of the governing authorities stands. There are many reservations also over the present chief minister who is reportedly trying to promote his kinsmen while ignoring a vast majority of the population of his province. If he continues with this policy, then the other at least two powerful tribes will feel isolated and could retaliate creating serious problems not only in the province but also for the federal government.

Now let us take a look at the biggest province of the country, Punjab, where the chief minister mostly acts like a monarch and not as an elected representative of the people. He is ambitious and hard working but seems to lack proper direction. This has resulted in the wastage of billions of rupees of government resources on projects that have eaten rotted away. Projects such as the Sasti Roti scheme, subsidised flour and Danish schools have resulted in colossal amounts of government money going down the drain. Even in Punjab health services continue to reel due to lack of funds and outright corruption. Public-sector hospitals lack basic facilities like ventilators and bed space. It seems the government’s priority is to build highways and metro train and other projects that are expected to cater to less than two percent of the population while the remaining 98 percent continue to be ignored. Punjab also suffers from lack of clean drinking water, basic facilities of sanitation; education too remains in a deplorable state.

Now let us take a look at the performance of the federal government which has failed to fulfil even a single commitment made to the people of this country regarding provision of gas, health facilities and education. The federal government is caught up in projects like LNG but no effort seems to have been put in place to improve the other bigger issues at hand.

It was in this background that the leadership of the Pakistan Army and subsequently the chief justice of the Supreme Court had to call for better governance from the democratic government. However, even after the passage of a few months there has been no improvement. Instead things have deteriorated further, a situation that cannot be allowed to continue for any longer because it will have a serious impact on the entire fabric of the country.