Monday, December 10, 2012

Fourteen Points to 'Reprogram' and 'Reboot' Pakistan

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
“Verily, Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change their inner selves”
– Al-Qur’an, 13:11

“Know others and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
When you are ignorant of others but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal.
If you are ignorant both of others and of yourself, you are certain in every battles to be in peril.”
Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

There comes a time in the life of nation when silence is cruel and fence sitting is not an option. Today, as the Pakistani ruling elite apparently lay the foundation of a modern Pakistan, we rather find this resilient but bemused nation being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, opportunism and cronyism, to the eternal shame of this country, by its own so-called leaders, and with utter disregard to its future. For instance, Pakistan ranked 30th in money laundering and tax evasion out of 144 countries in the Basel 2012 AML Index, slipped from 45/180 in 2008 to 34th most corrupt country out of 176 in the Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index, ranked 8th most corrupt, 7th worst in delivery of civil justice and 18th worst in delivery of criminal justice out of 97 countries in the World Justice Project’s 2012 Rule of Law Index, slipped from 136/177 in 2007/08 to 145th out of 187 countries in the United Nation’s 2011 Human Development Index, slipped from 127/130 in 2008 to 134th out of 135 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Gender Gap Index, slipped from 92/131 in 2007-08 to 124 out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2012/13 Global Competitiveness Index, ranked 9th most economically distressed and sociopolitically vulnerable country out of 165 in The Economist’s 2010 Political Risk Index and 10th least peaceful country out of 158 in the Institute for Economics & Peace’s 2012 Global Peace Index. When a cancer has metastasised or gangrene spreads, there are fewer options and limited time; a surgical resection often becomes necessary over happy-go-lucky conservative care or faith-healing rituals. This piece, therefore, is a clarion call to all Pakistanis, particularly if you are also a public servant or holder of public office in Pakistan, to treat the disease, not the symptoms -- think rationally, dispassionately and altruistically and not impulsively, emotionally or selfishly, step out of your big bubbles of tiny egos and small cocoons of infallibility and megalomania, because “charity should begin at himself” and “they who serve at the altar, should live by the altar,” and gently reflect on the issues below constructively in order to chalk out a shared path ahead.

People are the real wealth of a nation. But in a place ridden with internal contradictions, double-standards and socioeconomic disparities, in a place ridden with systemic black holes - not mere loopholes, in a place that yearns for change and action but resigns to fate and inaction, clings to dependency and awaits a saviour, in a place where free-riders run amok and the moral hazard costs of few productive beings subsidising large unproductive teams run high, in a place where ‘show me the face, I’ll show you the rule’ remains mantra of the day, in a place where the social contract remains inherently unjust, in a place where according to Pakistan-born American billionaire entrepreneur Shahid Khan “the biggest impediment is that hope, getting to the next stage, it doesn’t matter how hard you work, there are forces that kind of prevent you from being the best you can be” – in short, there are no easy picks in a place with broken system and so springing the spring to spring becomes the most difficult spring. After all, what for, why bother, or how come!? In essence, it boils down to individual attitude, mindset and personality and the way individuals and society are ‘programmed’ because if people can not step up to change themselves it is recklessly naïve and fallacious to assume that they could spring the spring in a society and country.

However, not all is lost; finely-tuned, this nation can do wonders. The problems faced by Pakistan are not natural but man-made and can be overcome by the actions of Pakistanis. But as often attributed to Einstein, “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” So, when you find yourself riding a dead horse; it is time to dismount and change the horse. A new thinking becomes essential if you are to survive and move forward, just as skilled sailing is essential for a prosperous voyage or for turning a big ship around on the high seas. You must free yourselves of the longing for a saviour or that the problems will ever rest, rather you must breed a new mindset and learn to sail in high winds; once your mind is stretched by this new thinking you would never look back. There is little need to reinvent the wheel though; as Sven Lindqvist said, “it is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.” You can surely jump on the learning curve making use of the best practices and lessons learned from contemporary world and past history - and there are plenty of these that have stood the tests of time.

Below is a Fourteen Point Agenda proposed to help change, revive and reclaim Pakistan. These are not words from the Gospel but the dock of the bay for fourteen teams of dedicated persons and an involved society, working in tandem, for a nation’s ship to set sail. These are no quick fixes; developing a nation and a country is a collective responsibility where everyone does his/her due share. The choices Pakistanis make every day would dictate the lives they lead. It is important to understand and remember though that not everyone would see the world the same as you do, because if nothing else it seriously constrains you to take on board other people’s insights, expertise and experiences. It is only when you have this tolerance for dissent, finesse for concession and conciliation, understanding of your positions and interests, and capacity to learn from history rather than reinvent the wheel each time that you can create a system of checks and balances to change, responsibly self-govern and construct a shared future. Recall from history that when peaceful change is made impossible then violent revolution or colonization do become inevitable.

  1. A Provinces Reorganisation Commission shall be set up to recommend the reorganisation of all provincial boundaries, so as to correspond more closely to modern Pakistan’s ethnic subcultures and administrative exigencies instead of the old colonial arrangement. This shall also reinforce inter-provincial amity, ethnic inclusivity, public ardour and social harmony.
  2. Land management systems must be restructured. Land records are one of the most important and most commonly used public documents. In order to protect citizen’s right to property, provide speedy access to land records and related services, insure accuracy and prevent tampering of land records, fake mutations, illegal land transfers or land grabbing, a functional Provincial Land Records Index and Information Management System along with computerization of land records in each district shall be fully completed, a departmental activity free of any interim legal injunction, statutory limitation or administrative delay, throughout the country within 1 year on an emergency basis. Land settlement of each district shall also be conducted and completed on an emergency basis, a departmental activity free of any interim legal injunction, statutory limitation or administrative delay, preferably keeping the last settlement done under the colonial rule pre-1947 in that district as the necessary and fair reference point, throughout the country within a maximum of 3 years, and thereafter done regularly on a 10-year cyclical basis. Equitable distribution and efficient administration of agricultural and non-agricultural land must be assured to minimize social and economic inequities and inequalities, upgrade land utilization, tenancy structures and productivity, and prevent investment of black money into land transactions in the country. Relevant laws shall be altruistically amended and implemented to abolish intermediaries, protect tenants, rationalize tenure systems, improve management of Common, Colony, Evacuee/Auqaf and Waqf lands, and in particular impose ceilings on landholdings, such as a ceiling of 5 Hectares (~100 kanal) for agricultural land owned by a single person or household unit but under sharecropping tenancy, a ceiling of 10 Hectares (~200 kanal) for self-cultivated agricultural land owned by a single person or household unit, that is a maximum of 15 Hectares of agricultural land, including any shamlat-deh/Common, Tribal, Forest or Colony or other lands on allotment/lease, owned by a single person or household unit, and a maximum of 10 Hectares of agricultural land, including any shamlat-deh/Common, Tribal, Forest or Colony or other lands on allotment/lease, exclusively owned by a private company or not-for-profit society or trust comprising of non-competing shareholders, and a ceiling of 1 Hectare (~20 kanal) for non-agricultural land owned by a single person or household unit for urban, residential or commercial purposes, and a ceiling of 10 Hectare (~200 kanal) for non-agricultural land exclusively owned by a private company or not-for-profit society or trust comprising of non-competing shareholders for urban or commercial purposes. Furthermore, independent District Agriculture Development Boards with membership of the community and agriculturists may be constituted in each district to advise the District Governments on agriculture extension, diversification and marketing, monitor agricultural program delivery, foster agricultural cooperatives where needed, and help enhance farm efficiency and productivity.
  3. Freedom of the Press is guaranteed not only to those who own one but also to all citizens of the state. The current system of self-regulation is inherently constrained to expose or rein in any wrongdoing in the media. In order to insure media ethics and appropriate checks and balances, the relevant laws shall be amended to provide for an independent statutory office of Media Ombudsman to handle public complaints, determine whether the actions of print and electronic media in Pakistan are in line with good journalistic practices and make an independent decision or refer complex cases to the Press Council of Pakistan or to the court for action, as needed. Moreover, in order to maintain freedom of the press, editorial independence, content neutrality and diversity, and to prevent a monopoly of ideas, in public interest, relevant media ownership and regulation laws shall also be amended to check media concentration and convergence in Pakistan, inter-alia, limit a single person or household or company to own one national broadcast network, or two local stations in a single media market, or one radio and one TV station cross-ownership in a local/provincial market, prohibit common or cross-ownership of a daily newspaper and a broadcast station (TV or radio), and cap foreign content to one-third each in radio, TV, movies and advertising. The newspaper/broadcast cross-ownerships and combinations that already exist shall be required to divest their majority holdings into open market within a period of two years from this amendment.
  4. Relevant federal and provincial ministries and departments may collaborate to develop, implement and evaluate a plan to promote arts, culture and heritage. National, provincial and regional cultural festivals, fairs, sports events and trade shows must be organised regularly to promote communal interaction and integration, ethnic harmony, domestic tourism and commerce.
  5. Religious freedom and harmony must be protected. In order to prevent communal discord or discrimination of any faith group and to safeguard the right of each individual to worship, the places of worship for all faiths, faith-based community/cultural centres and faith-based schools may require a license to operate, and the future establishments shall also require a building permit, based on specific criteria and procedures, prior to construction from the respective district or provincial government. A province may also appoint a recognized community member as a congregation leader, in a suitable government pay scale, at a particular place of worship, if requested so by the relevant community. All faith-based schools must follow a standardized curriculum as other schools in the country, be open to students of all faiths, foster interfaith interactions and the religious instruction should be after-class and optional.
  6. Education system shall be overhauled. A uniform and standardized academic curriculum for Grades 1-12 must be followed by all public, private, not-for-profit and faith-based schools/colleges of the country, except international schools for wards of diplomats and other foreigners in Pakistan, and parallel systems of education shall not be allowed under no circumstances. All school education must be bilingual (English and Urdu/regional language, as determined by the province) from Grade 1 and students should have the choice to write their examinations in either of their two languages. To implement this, a province may opt to shut its schools down for a limited period, if needed, so as to complete training of its teachers and standardization and introduction of the new curriculum. In addition, special attention may be given towards primary education and the best teachers shall be hired, trained and retained for primary schools. The schools must evolve mechanisms for teachers and parents to collaborate and ensure that the seven primary values of truth, honesty, fairness, respect for law, tolerance, hardwork and respect for elders are inculcated amongst children at a tender age. Moreover, independent District School Boards with membership of the community and educationists may be constituted in each district to advise the District Governments on insuring high-quality teachers, accountability of schools, administrators and teachers, and an overall effectiveness of local education systems.
  7. In order to nurture right attitudes, values and a motivation to give back to community, it shall be mandatory for all students to do 60 hours in local community service projects over three years for higher secondary school completion. To continue students’ all round personality development, foster a responsible work ethic, improve ethnic harmony, strengthen university-community relationships and advance students’ job market prospects, it shall be further mandatory for all students to do a minimum of three months in community service projects in cities other than their city of origin for graduation. A National Youth Service Organisation may also be established to coordinate and assure quality of these community service programs and partnerships.
  8. A Federal Public Health Agency shall be created to promote and protect the health of Pakistani peoples, prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases and injuries, prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, strengthen intergovernmental collaboration, and importantly coordinate with multilateral and international donors, international and national NGOs and provinces in implementation, monitoring and evaluation of foreign-assisted primary health care, basic health services and emergency medicine projects. The Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) and the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Pakistan (CPSP) shall assist government in strengthening laws against quackery to check fraudulent medical practitioners and traditional healers and shall also set up minimum safety and quality standards for private healthcare establishments in the country. This should require PMDC/CPSP to conduct periodic inspections of private healthcare establishments and shut down services/procedures in establishments that do not meet the minimum standards, that is where staff lack appropriate qualifications for the services/procedures on premises, where internal quality audit systems are deficient and where access to critical medication on premises such as cardiac resuscitation is inadequate, and so restrict such establishments until a corrective action is taken and the site is reinspected and cleared.  Moreover, independent District Health Development Boards with membership of the community and health professionals may be constituted in each district to advise the District Governments on insuring public solutions for high-quality public healthcare services and an overall effectiveness of local healthcare systems.
  9. The local government laws shall be amended to provide for an independent statutory office of District Ombudsman at the level of each district government to investigate into misuse or abuse of power, corruption or administrative wrongdoings by government departments or elected representatives of the district and public servants working in the district and make an independent decision or refer complex cases to government, police or a relevant court for action, as needed.
  10. The civil service and its values need a renaissance. Public institutions must be more transparent and public officials more accountable to assure ethical governance. Archaic selection system and colonial/post-colonial service structures that by default limit the capacities to deliver in a modern nation-state, erosion of civil service values, false self-imposed insecurity, negative competition within and between groups/services, and a lack of specialisation within most groups/services have severely affected the performance of civil servants. The civil service values of representativeness, responsibility, professionalism, efficiency, accountability, participatory policy-making and decentralized governance with sufficient provincial autonomy must be nurtured. Managing day-to-day affairs of the state, ensuring provision of essential services to people and resolution of public needs are primarily the responsibilities of civil bureaucracy, and not judiciary, military, press or politicians per se, as it is the civil servants, who through their professionalism and excellence in work ethics, act as guardians of the public interest, guarantors of a responsible, ethical government and stewards of continued good governance. So, the civil servants must embody a system of checks and balances in their work and in the dynamics of the state, strengthen the offices of federal and provincial ombudsmen, and improve their recruitment, training and performance management systems. An independent Civil Service Reforms Commission shall be constituted to allow for equal employment opportunity and affirmative action, nurture a specialist bureaucracy, foster civil service values, improve efficiencies and plug all systemic loopholes. For instance, the eligibility criteria and structure of the competitive examination for recruitment into BS-17 positions in the federal government (erroneously called ‘Central Superior Services’ examination, a misnomer in itself as it implies some services and public servants as ‘inferior’) must be reformed, loopholes such as abuses of domicile claims by non-resident or extra-provincially/regionally educated candidates, optional subjects and discretionary oral assessments may be rectified, and the candidates may be allowed to write the examination in a language of their choice (English, Urdu or a regional language). Common recruitment through the federal competitive examination into BS-17 must be limited to three groups/services only, namely the Foreign Service of Pakistan, the Police Service of Pakistan and the Pakistan Administrative Service (erstwhile District Management Group). Specialized recruitment into BS-17 shall be carried out for all other federal occupational groups/services, so as to develop a specialist bureaucracy instead of generalists and enhance government efficiencies. To allow equal horizontal mobility to both federal and provincial public servants and encourage extraordinary talent to rise, all federal and provincial ministries in the secretariat, including allied and autonomous departments under their administrative control, except the Foreign Service of Pakistan, the Police Service of Pakistan, health, education, law, science and technology, agriculture, and communications and works departments, shall also conduct a specialised competitive examination open to all federal and provincial employees for recruitment into BS-19 in that particular department/ministry. In order to allow fair opportunities for career growth and minimize nepotism at the highest levels, all federal and provincial appointments in BS-21 and BS-22 shall be limited to two tenures of two years each and should lead to retirement, if the public servant is not promoted to the next level by the end of the second tenure. Moreover, a representative bureaucracy is the lynchpin of self-government. An agreement must be reached between the federation and provinces that defines a formula for federal representation in provincial institutions and vice-versa, and equally guarantees implementation of this quota of federal public servants in provincial governments and provincial public servants in the federal government. Because law and order is essentially a provincial subject, appointment of federal public servants to administrative, revenue or police positions in district or provincial governments must not under any circumstance exceed their agreed quota for the relevant sanctioned positions in a province. The key civil bureaucracy appointments of secretary to the chief minister, secretary to the governor, and chief secretary in a province shall also have a statutory rotation between public servants from the federal and provincial governments. Furthermore, specialist/professional departmental public servants must always, without exception, lead the departments of health, education, law, science and technology, agriculture, and communications and works. In order to minimize arbitrariness and nepotism, section 10 of the Civil Servants Act and other discretionary provisions including reclassification of sanctioned positions to accommodate non-group/service personnel to cadred/group positions or appointment of federal public servants to provincial positions in excess of their quota must be rescinded forthwith. Deputation rules must also be revised and no public servant shall be allowed to serve more than two tenures of two years each with a multilateral agency, international donor, international or national NGO, or an academic institution through the length of their careers. To prevent any conflict of interest, public/civil servants in active service or on leave shall be ineligible to hold an office or a special service contract as a consultant, private contractor or service provider for a public sector corporation or state-owned enterprise, and shall be ineligible to hold an office or a special service contract as a consultant, private contractor or service provider for a federal or provincial government, public sector corporation or state-owned enterprise for a mandatory period of two years post-retirement. 
  11. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall be restructured to respond to the heightened need of professionalism and excellence, to have an effect and relevance in the increasingly multifaceted scope and complex challenges of modern diplomacy and international affairs, and to serve the interests of the country in an integrated manner. The ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce must collaborate, along with relevant stakeholders, to jointly develop a Country Positioning Strategy and assure its implementation and evaluation, minimize dyarchy of trade and diplomacy in the missions abroad, and help transform country’s economy base to “services” from raw materials or semi-finished goods by leveraging on the talent and expertise at home and of the diaspora abroad. The commercial positions in the missions abroad must only be staffed by members of the Commerce & Trade Group, adequately trained in international marketing, trade promotion and WTO law and selected through an internal examination, to help improve trade diplomacy and trade promotion efficiencies, enhance returns for Pakistani businesses and strengthen institutional knowledge and institutional memory in international trade on return. A Pakistan Agency for International Development shall also be set up, as an autonomous agency, to ensure that Pakistani economic, labour, technical, social and humanitarian investments abroad, particularly in the emerging, developing and non-aligned economies, must promote Pakistani business, economy and ideals, bring benefits to the people of Pakistan and facilitate an improved and enhanced country image.
  12. All provinces may be encouraged to set up and/or strengthen their own provincial boards for investment, trade promotion and tourism.
  13. The basic trainings in military academies of the defence services shall be revamped to groom a new generation of professional officers, with at least four heads: military, technological, economic and sociopolitical, within an overarching ambit of democracy, to help the country meet its challenges and responsibilities in the 21st Century. Talented officers should be sponsored for doctoral studies in these disciplines at civilian graduate schools, early in their careers, with a condition to teach for three years in a military academy on return. Also, an independent National Intelligence Review Committee may be established as a top intelligence ombudsman for all intelligence organisations in the country to monitor any misuse or abuse of power, or administrative wrongdoings, and make recommendations to the government. The existing Defence Committee of the Cabinet may be upgraded to a statutory National Security Council for improved and enhanced institutional synergies, coordination of policies on national security issues and advising chief executives on matters related to national security. Furthermore, involvement of defence services organisations, their attached departments/wings, subsidiaries and/or personnel, directly or indirectly, in industrial or commercial enterprises must be discontinued in the future and any existing majority holdings in any enterprise shall be divested into open market. To prevent any conflict of interest, officers of the defence services in active service or on leave shall be ineligible to hold an office or a special service contract as a consultant, private contractor or service provider for a public sector corporation or state-owned enterprise, and shall be ineligible to hold an office or a special service contract as a consultant, private contractor or service provider for a federal or provincial government, public sector corporation or state-owned enterprise for a mandatory period of two years post-retirement.
  14. A Federal Constitutional Court shall be established with an exclusive responsibility to interpret the constitution. This would also allow the existing superior judiciary to facilitate administration of civil and criminal justice in the country by better expediting and streamlining dispensation of justice to the common man especially in regard to routine civil, criminal or other special laws. Furthermore, in order to strengthen the independence of judiciary, judicial impartiality, judicial review and a system of checks and balances between the branches of the state, “nemo judex in causa sua(tr: no man may be a judge in his own cause), all nominations/appointments to and impeachments/removals from superior judiciary by the Executive must be subject to confirmation hearings of the joint parliamentary committee on law and justice.
T.E. Lawrence cautioned, “all men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.” It is time now for the Pakistanis to not merely dream but plant trees so that the next generation gets the shade.

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