We are where we are because of three things: our political culture, our model of governance and lack of institutionalised accountability. Our political culture is dynastic and dynastic politics across the world has five notable outcomes: high levels of poverty; underinvestment in education and health; the state fails to provide basic services (water, electricity and justice); political parties lack internal democracy; and financial rewards to dynastic politicians are extremely high.
We need competition in politics to let the best people rise. What we have is elevation based on loyalty to dynasties as oppose to merit. We need fresh minds to lead. The bicameral congress of the Philippines is debating House Bill 3587 or the Act Prohibiting the Establishment of Political Dynasties. House Bill 3587 “proposes to limit clans from building political dynasties by prohibiting relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity to hold or run for both national and local posts in successive, simultaneous and overlapping terms”. The Election Commission of Pakistan ought to take on the restructuring of our political culture.
Next: our model of governance. We have had 10 elections over the past 47 years. There are 30.2 million families in Pakistan (Census 2017). Of these, there are 1,174 families who have routinely taken part – over and over again – in the past 10 elections. Members of these 1,174 families continue to occupy 1,174 seats in the Senate, the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies.
For the record, over the past 47 years, our elected legislatures have been extremely poor managers. For the record, over the past 47 years, our elected legislatures have failed to deliver. We need professionals, subject specialists and domain experts as managers and elected legislatures as part of oversight committees. Simple, isn’t it?
Next: institutionalised accountability. Democracy is about three things: elections, accountability and responsive governance. We have had 10 elections over the past 47 years but our democracy is completely devoid of both accountability and responsiveness. All that we have is one-third of democracy. We need more democracy, not less.
For the record, Pakistan has one of the largest anti-corruption infrastructures in the world: the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), an Anti-Corruption Establishment in all four provinces, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission, the Wafaqi Mohtasib, the Federal Tax Ombudsman, Mohtasib-e-Aala offices in Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh, the Banking Mohtasib, the Federal Insurance Ombudsman and the Federal Ombudsman for the Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace.
Institutionalised accountability means three things: legislation, physical infrastructure and leadership. Our accountability mechanism has two things: legislation and physical infrastructure. The only thing that is missing is leadership. And effective leadership is all about political intent (there’s no shortage of talent in this country). Simple, isn’t it?
In this day and age, taking a country forward is no rocket science. We need to enforce internal democracy within our political parties, detach elected legislatures from executive authority and institutionalise accountability. Simple, isn’t it?
In this day and age, taking a country forward is about four things: political intent, domain specialists, a roadmap and an implementation mechanism. The only element that is lacking in the land of the pure is political intent. Simple, isn’t it?
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @saleemfarrukh