If education is expensive try ignorance. This saying proves tailor made for those who have been entrusted with the charge d’affaires of the most crucial element missing in the country, education. The federal budget 2011 as usual gave a cursory importance to education.
Hardly 1.5 per cent has been allocated to education that is less than minor countries like Nepal and Bhutan. The rationale given is that education is now devolved at the provincial level. However the Punjab government has also allocated a dismissive Rs24 billion for this area continuing the tradition of focusing on a few loud projects while dismissing the need to work at the fundamentals of this deteriorating socioeconomic decay gripping the country.
Higher education has been the biggest casualty of this throw of the ball from the federal court to provincial court game that has turned democracy and devolution into abused euphemisms of exploitation. The treatment meted out earlier to HEC was the prime example of how focused and determined our leaders are to destroy anything remotely beneficial left for the betterment of our society.
After a lot of debate and controversy HEC was finally dissolved under the pretext of devolving it to provincial purview and in its place a new acronym CSHE chosen as Commission for Standard Higher Education. This rearrangement of alphabet was constituted to pacify the outrage expressed by all parties concerned. The reason for this renaming and reforming is that the 18th amendment demands education to be a subject dealt through provinces. The fact that HEC did not fall under education ministry and is a separate federal body was a fact that our “intellectual ministers” were blissfully ignorant about.
HEC formation had been a highlight of the previous government’s achievements and was responsible for monitoring the status of chartered institutions and the facilitation of PhDs in the country. However, since it had been in the limelight due to the recent exposure of faked degrees of elected politicians it had to be put into its place. Since the verification of degrees had affected a number of “leading” personalities in the senate, it was thought appropriate to clip its wings to make it another paper institution that has no performance and no purpose and just dismissed as an OSD to the provincial level.
The abuse of democracy by our leaders is paralleled by the complete misuse of the term devolution. While democracy is just a veneer for bogus elections and faked degree holders forcing their way into the assembly and making decisions that are totally non representative of the interest of the majority, devolution is another cover up of retarding institutions with crippling policies and then throwing them with gay abandon in the provinces’ domain. Thus devolution is the vehicle through which the government tries to legalise its irresponsibility.
The real meaning of devolution is to devolve authority, resources and responsibility at levels where they are equipped to manage it best for the sake of the beneficiary. The real purpose of devolution is empowerment and participation of people right down to the grass root level. However, the interpretation of the government is that devolution is another way of abandonment. Rather than encouraging and building up the capacity of the provinces, the federal government uses arm’s length tactics of distancing itself from their issues and waiting maliciously for the provinces to fail.
The government’s complete divorce from the issues hounding the public is also another example where it has abandoned its responsibility as a state provider and protector of public amenities. The fact that most businesses to survive need to be fully self reliant on generating their own electricity, conserving their own water supply, employing their own security guards for protection is also another comical display of the government devolving its functions to the individual level in an attempt to shirk away from the very reason for its existence.
The danger for this orphaned political patronage at all levels is that it gives a green signal to everybody in the country to absolve their responsibility to do what they feel is their own interest. The earlier statement issued by the Chief Justice asking the government officers to go against the official orders if the orders violate the principles and ethics is a clear example of the clash between the executive and the judiciary.
It is this irresponsible attitude of the government at all levels that has made the country vulnerable to foreign interference of the most damaging sort. As countries like US see the complete apathy and irresponsibility of the government to fulfill its role as a nation state, it mocks away any gesture of the government to declare objections against US encroachment in its land. While the war on terror has cost a whopping $68 billion since 9/11, the aid received from the US has amounted a paltry $15 billion.
Who is responsible for this political suicide? The Punjab government throws it at the government, the government throws it at the previous government, the previous government on America and America on AlQaeda and Taliban. With minimum accountability for its deeds and performance the government has lost all its sense of prioritisation, of what matters most, of what needs to be done, where the next danger lies, and most of all where to go from here; Leaders beware, it is this combination of indifference and ignorance which brings the fall of even the mightiest.
The writer is a consultant, analyst and columnist and can be reached at [email protected]