Public Policy Hitches in Pakistan

By Zulqarnain Sewag

SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)

Former  Colonial masters did not let go freely to the freed nations but yoked them in many whirls of subordination and subjugation. Commonwealth was created to keep the previous colonies cum new independent states under the imperial legacy. Westminster system of parliamentary government was adopted by the member states both for governance and policymaking. This secretariat style is nothing more than the centralization and personalization of the powers, of the mandate and the exploitation. While confronting with public policy one has to adhere with some key factors i.e. rationality, optimum use of resources, acceptability and feasibility of the policy. Unfortunately, practically none of the principle is properly considered but it is altered on the interests of political parties, corporatism, media, unions, mafias, armed forces, IFIs and international players. Ethos, traditions and beliefs also affect the policymaking process. Resultantly, this bounded rationality delivers nothing to those for whom policy was to be incorporated. The journey of public policy starts with the identification of the problem. Here we mix problems with the symptoms creating bedlam in the beginning. A problem does not manifest into policy until it is properly articulated. What is demanded by the public hardly comes on the agenda setting but in the dust bins of the buildings constructed on public exchequer. As in our civil bureaucracy it is said that the Punjabi group directs the doom of whole governance due to its numerical majority. Public policy without its due implementation is no policy and without any policy there is no governance. The application of evidence in policy formulation is incomplete conception with limited outset. The Machiavellian style of policy formulation has always benefitted to the few. Kitchen cabinets enjoy its major fruit and nation as a whole remains underdeveloped, deprived and unrepresented. Meanwhile the problems start swallowing and become irrepressible which lead toward the collapse of the system and then result into reforms and revolutions. In Pakistan, flaws in this regard start from the identification of the problems and go till and afterward of the implementation of the policy. The whole process is full of lacunas like short-sightedness, personal and alien interests, grudges and differences, institutional tussle, red-tapism, financial and technical incapacities and ailed will of the incompetent policy makers and leaders. In a strategy as we see the distant things close and take a distant view of close things, same process we have to revise in policymaking taking into account nature of the problem. Neither mechanism is followed and nor the coherence is addressed. There is least specialization in the public policymaking. Same body is formulating policies for every national department and issue. Though different trainings are implanted to the bureaucrats at induction and during career right from CTP (in CSA) to STP, MCMC, NMC, SMC and EDC all under National School of Public Policy but they are practically of no avail because policies partially benefit to the general masses. Sadly, we have failed to mitigate distances between partiality and impartiality, integrity and dishonesty, personal preferences and national interests and now they have grown into a quandary which will never set until the stakeholders do not take it into horns. Devolution of power makes governance effective and efficient but here in our country now one is ready to decentralize the power. Local bodies’ elections have become a distant dreams resulting in increased problems and least development. Political uncertainty has put national progress and prosperity at stake. Pakistan is actually the victim of incompetent, ill-vision and rigged leaders. Law envisages problem diagnose, analysis of various options, costing and budgeting, milestones and deadlines to the relevant ministry, department or division which also consider the demands and concerns of the stakeholders. But after this process, the recommendations are sent to the top executives who modify them according to their own interests and interests of those who influence them and then sent to ECC or cabinet which transfers them to law ministry for legal repercussions which after then forward to relevant committees of assembly and senate and finally it reaches at the floor for final ratification. But it is still not over. Psychological factors including moods and vendettas of the ministers, officers and bosses also affect the process. A policy may take months and sometimes years to formulate and implement. And if fortuitously it is approved it needs now execution and then periodical scrutiny. The policy document though passes under the Aurora Diamante fountain pens of the high-ups but results against the demands of the populace. Public protests along with the problems (which even may become severe) gradually die their natural death. Top down and bottom up approaches are by and large peeped into while processing with policymaking. Top down approach being dictatorial in nature dominates the process thus rules. We have lack of expertise in our government sectors whereas technocrats are hardly involved. There is a greater vacuum between actual problems and problems on policy agenda. Ground realities always differ and remain far cry. Here all the pillars of the state are at daggers drawn with each other due to general incapability and inefficiencies. One is directing the other thus creating fuss overall with no contribution in the systematic and structural development. Irresponsiveness to the public issues has made the state of affairs pathetic and disgusting engraving black spots on the faces of the leaders. Mismanagement and corruption have no limits in Pakistan whereas procedures are exploitative and cumbersome. Same is the case of judicial policymaking in Pakistan. SBP more works on the directions of IFIs instead of domestic realities. PSEs are failed mainly due to policy failure. Our policymakers have no time to bestow few hours for R&D which keep the country at par with developed world. Public Polices here needs be incorporated keeping in view the history, culture, economic, religious and political situation, geography, traditions and demands of the area for which policy is needed. International and technological researches and developments ought to be taken into account during the process. There is dire need of national integration, accountability of the bureaucrats and politicians, systematic transparency, masses representation, observance to the heeds of the actual stakeholders, competent leadership with a strong political will and progressive national agenda. Public policymaking must be thought-out seriously fulfilling its jigs and fixtures as it is the base of governance.

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