Where political acumen meets bureaucratic dexterity | Pakistan Today

Where political acumen meets bureaucratic dexterity

If you are a reporter and happen to cover standing committees of the parliament, you certainly cannot ignore opportunities to see or unmask the real faces of high officials and their shenanigans to fool people.
Though the reporters are not part of the official proceedings of the meetings, but they still understand the political acumen of the public’s representatives and dexterity of bureaucrats— particularly the way they deceive and beat about the bush rather than answering the question at hand.
Though I remember a number of similar proceedings of various standing committees, one was especially interning where the meeting was having a briefing on development projects in Federally Administrated Tribal Areas. It began with an introduction of ATA, the area, geography, population and ethnicity which took almost two hours before the proceeding actually stared. It was interesting that there were only two pages about the actual progress on the projects whereas the document had total 23 pages.
Similarly it is amusing to see when officials answer the questions of the members regarding the agenda items. In certain cases, they never answer the real questions and skillfully parry the probe of the members.
Once in a meeting of a standing committee on labour, the official did not come up with straight answers regarding embezzlement of funds in the Workers Welfare Funds. The official kept the members revolving around the criterion of the deserving workers, nature of funds, the sanctioning authority and provisions of transfer of fund to other accounts and at the end no one was able to make out what could be concluded at the end of the whole debate.
I also know the chairman of a senate standing committee who cannot understand English at all but officials prefer to reply his questions in English. When the irritated committee head asks officials to speak in Urdu, they speak an Urdu punctuated with complex English phrases.
Some officials are too “skilled” in technical jargon that majority of members are unable to discern the meanings of tax to GDP ratio, the net-zero financing, tariff differential and GNP etc.
I remember the proceedings of another standing committee of Housing and Works. The question at hand was about the complaint of a government employee who had not been allotted house for the last 2 years despite meeting the criterion. When the chairman asked an official, an additional secretary, about the criterion of allotment of houses to government employees, the official started with its history since 1960s. He narrated history of different criteria set officially or unofficially by different governments regarding allotments under different regimes.
Exasperated, when the chairman asked about the present government’s criterion, he started talking about the discretionary powers of the prime minister in different departments including Housing and Works. Usually the officials sidetrack the debate with understanding if answer of a particular question is not to be answered. Sometimes officials sidetrack the issue diverting whole debate by raising or linking it to another issue.
Chaudhry Tasadaq Masood MNA, when asked about this culture of officials’ beguiling approach, said it all depended on the ability of the chairman of a committee. “If the chairman is an intelligent man, he can control the proceedings of the committee by not letting officials to beguile public representatives for that matter. He can also direct the officials to simplify things for the understanding of the members and others present. Sometimes chairman or a member deliberately does not press officials for real answers keeping in view their certain political interests”.

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One Comment;

  1. KissaKhani said:

    All these reports are written by section officers of the concerned ministry as per instructions from the higher echelon of the ministry, And the handed to the Minister or
    the Parliamentarian who unfortunately has a Ph D or M Phil from a Ivy Institution and cannot interpret whats on the paper.

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