A wakeup call

A PILDAT report gives a damning verdict about the quality of governance in Pakistan

A wakeup call

Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a civil society think-tank, has recently issued a report "Public Opinion on Quality of Governance in Pakistan" to fathom level of satisfaction of Pakistani citizens on the way they are being governed.

The report encapsulates public opinion at the completion of the first year (June 2013-May 2014) of the incumbent federal and provincial governments elected in 2013. The conclusions are based on perceived performance of the federal and all provincial governments against a range of core governance indicators.

Startling results of the public opinion depict a rather dismal performance of federal and provincial governments. Net performance rating of the federal government shows negative trend on 27 out of 30 indicators. The four provincial governments’ performance has been gauged against 27 indicators.

Even the best performer Punjab province does not depict any impressive state of affairs and shows positive trend against only 9 indicators, followed by KP with only 6 indicators. Balochistan shows positive trend against only 3 indicators and the worst performer Sindh province could not show positive trend on even a single indictor.

The report aptly comments about public sentiments in Sindh "this damning verdict of the Sindh government’s weak governance record shows that the people of Sindh are the most dissatisfied and disillusioned of any jurisdiction in Pakistan. For Pakistan’s second largest province, which includes the country’s largest urban metropolis and its economic hub, the state of affairs in Sindh should be a wakeup call for the provincial government, as well as the federal government, which needs to assist the province in improving its governance record, in order to bring relief to the people of Sindh."

The Pakistan People’s Party has been ruling Sindh for most of the time during elected governments except during interludes when angles were deployed to rig the elections. Since 2008, the party holds reins of the province virtually with full command and the governance has touched the rock-bottom during these years.

The PILDAT opinion poll shows extreme discontentment among the people of Sindh particularly regarding law and order, transparency, corruption, merit-based recruitment and promotions, public procurement, access to an efficient justice system, safe drinking water supply and irrigation management. Over the recent years, civil services structure has been crumpled by the powerful feudal lobby of the ruling party.

 Lack of transparency, poor law and order situation, violation of merit in public affairs and a justice system made hostage by feudal lords have particularly dismayed people of Sindh.

Nepotism and meritless decision-making have impregnated power corridors and a bunch of scoundrels keep trampling all norms of fairness. These are the realities based on which 59 per cent of the respondents in Sindh have ranked performance of the provincial chief minister as bad or very bad. No other chief minister has scored so poorly in the survey.

Similarly, 22 per cent respondents have ranked performance of the government of Sindh as very bad and no other provincial government has been rated so pathetically. Ruling elite from both urban and rural areas have completely disappointed their constituencies.

Lack of transparency, egregious law and order situation, blatant violation of merit in public affairs and a justice system made hostage by feudal lords have particularly dismayed people of the province. Nepotism and steam rolling of merit has brought the service delivery to a screeching halt. Basic services like drinking water supply, sanitation, construction and maintenance of road network, infrastructure, schooling and basic health services have almost collapsed.

Civil services structure has been paralysed and the Sindh Public Service Commission has been rendered redundant and all appointments are being made by the ruling masters operating from their plush drawing rooms. The incumbent minister for education flanked by his party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto revealed that during the previous tenure, some 30,000 fake recruitments were made in the Education Department that included 13,000 teachers.

The party chairperson did not promise any action against the erstwhile minister who is enjoying complete impunity and issuing statements to justify his abominable corruption. A few officers of the department have been made scapegoat whereas the responsible minister goes unscathed. Even more startling are reports about the Local Government Department where a staggering number of over 50,000 fake recruitments have been reported. Billions of rupees have been amassed by responsible officials and political leaders.

According to a newspaper report, some 400 officers in grade 16 and 17 were recruited in the Local Governments Department in a flagrant violation of rules. Appointments in these grades fall under the purview of the Provincial Services Commission which had no inkling of these recruitments. Scores of close relatives of ministers, assembly members and party stalwarts were among the beneficiaries.

It is a common belief that a sizeable amount thus minted reaches the top of the party pyramid. Vendors of jobs, postings, transfers and contracts have mushroomed in every village and town of the province. Their services are ubiquitously available to those who can pay the pipers. The sordid business has thrived manifold during recent years and has emerged as a major source of murky money.

The government of Sindh has set new records to dwarf all previous violations of the rules of business. According to a report appearing in daily Kawish, a leading Sindhi newspaper, a dispenser of a hospital has been made secretary to the inspection team of the chief minister. The dispenser posted in Khairpur, the home town of the chief minister, was first deputed as a stenographer in the CM House and was later on directly appointed as the secretary to the chief minister in grade 17 without observing official formalities. He was subsequently promoted in grade-18 to the covetous position of the secretary to the inspection team of the chief minister.

Health department is also infested by dozens of illegal appointments and the change of cadre. A report of daily Kawish reveals that a gardener was made dispenser and a sanitary worker was made lady health visitor. More than 100 junior officers have been occupying senior positions in the Health department.

Promotions in the department witnessed violations of industrial scale. Police department has particularly been marred by political recruitments and promotions. Since the police department is a controlling nerve of the power structure, rules and laws are more brazenly vandalised. Both parties in the ruling coalition i.e. PPP and MQM have been scrambling on the size of their pie in the police jobs.

In 2011, Yousaf Raza Gilani, the then prime minister, personally carried a prezzie of 676 job-letters in the police department to court MQM while visiting their party headquarters in Karachi. Out-of-turn and shoulder promotions have vitiated professional police in the province that has ultimately melted before a debilitating law and order situation in the city.

Kleptomania of power and corruption touched a new zenith when two senior police officials triggered an earthquake before the Supreme Court by revealing that a gambler possesses great influence in posting and promotions of police officers in Karachi. The creeping disaster has now brought policing in Karachi to its knees where law and order is non-existent for all practical purposes.

Other districts of Sindh are even worse-off where local politicians and feudal lords have license to appoint police personnel of their own choice to bolster their tyrant hegemony. Abduction for ransom, intimidation of political opponents, homicide of women and targeting of Hindu community has witnessed an unprecedented surge during recent years.

Frequent postings and transfers in the police department is a perennial activity sprouting an ever-flowing stream of income. Two Inspector Generals of Sindh Police were transferred within a short span of three months. Media has disclosed that both officers were relieved in an ignominious manner only because they lacked pliancy to endorse shadowy procurement of armoured personnel carriers. As a precursor to that, in February 2014, the provincial government passed "The Sindh Emergency Procurement Bill" that permits such procurement without following stipulations of the Sindh Public Procurement Regulatory Authority. Ironically the same Authority was created under an Act of the Sindh Assembly in 2009 when the same party was in government.

According to another report of daily Kawish that appeared on 25th February 2014, SSPs in various districts of Sindh were transferred at an alarming pace. Within one year, 8 SSPs were transferred in Hyderabad and 11 crossed the revolving door in Shikarpur. The chief minister’s own district Khairpur has earned the sobriquet of the heaven of criminals.

Out-of-cadre postings and appointing junior officers against senior positions has become a norm that does not even prompt a wrinkle on anyone’s forehead nowadays. When the affected government officials approached the court, perverted legislation was undertaken to legalise all irregularities.

Despite the orders of the Supreme Court, rules are unremittingly molested by the government of Sindh. To maintain a complete control on the provincial affairs, an octogenarian chief minister has been made in charge of 15 different departments. Wringing more wisdom out of him, he has also been made chairperson of more than a dozen boards and competent entities. All this culminates into the fact that virtually a rudderless administration is delinquently yanking the province as a fiefdom.

A wakeup call