‘Carpe Diem’ PTI Government

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Time is not on your side

In a few more days, the PTI led government will be approaching its half-yearly anniversary in government, yet the performance at hand has not seen progress, identical with the length and passage of time. To put it bluntly, the efforts have been quite inadequate given the steepness of challenges, and the fact that a rare moment where the country got rid of the usual suspects, in power, has not been unfortunately seen in the same light of importance by the government. What a shame!

As a worried Pakistani, who had been longing for most of his life to see someone at the helm of power walking more of the talk, still remains very much dissatisfied. This is not because the good intentions of our worthy PM, but on two counts, mainly, which is he has not picked the right team, and secondly, he is not learning from the shortcomings of the government’s performance and hence does not seem to be taking appropriate actions. The latter is more worrying and dents on fledgling hope that the PM gave to many.

Hence, ‘carpe diem’ or ‘seize the day’ for the time that this government and the people at the receiving end have got, in my opinion, an Olive Branch extended to defeat the immensely perpetuated status quo. And as such requires a truly potent shock therapy. This requires steps taken on war footings, remaining open to learning from all corners- like the articles that appear in black and white on these pages, among others. Each day is a rare capsule in time, which is needed for the national healing.

After all that is the secret to any developed country: planning to bring to power every single municipality- in terms of social sectors, infrastructure, and political rights.

So, seize the day Mr. PM, and push your cabinet and the PTI-backed CMs and their cabinets (at least) to grab the day as there were no tomorrow. The routine pace and efforts will not do. They cannot, given the extent of mess.

Sitting in offices and holding meetings will not help much; allow breaking free from looking into the problems through the eyes of the bureaucrats, the consultants and the donor community. Beautiful presentations won’t do it either. They are easy toys to keep the government from nagging the status quo, but it is not what the PM wants to do, to go into the heart of problems, to redress issues at the doorstep.

A former chief secretary of Punjab, Mr. Javed Mahmood, would take along his full set of secretaries to a division and camp there until the time the local issues were seen and resolved as a priority. Work was carried out day and night. People felt somebody came to understand their problems and bureaucracy was asked to get matters resolved in days, that otherwise took months even. Similarly, when he started working as Ombudsman of the same province, he devolved powers to the district level by constituting offices in every district. All this to the effect that the masses could get access to problem redressal at the local level; not having to travel all the way to Lahore.

Can the PM not ask his CMs- in Punjab and KPK at least- to camp out in every division on a periodic way and see the agenda of the government implemented there in? As a corollary, what is it with the PTI government involving ‘used cartridges’ whereby usual suspects in the shape of civil servants and technocrats are being involved in policy making- those who when in a position of power did not deliver much and who were present in almost all governments in the recent past? If they had motivation and bright ideas, would they have not delivered by now?

Even if they say they were not allowed to work under those governments, one may ask how many of them resigned from their cosy appointments; giving up on their perks. Hardly anyone!

Can they not engage people who in fact took a bold stance by actually trying to go against the tide when the status quo ruled in all its might? Moreover, how much has the PM his ministers, or his CMs and their respective cabinet’s involved new faces in the policy corridors? Have they reached out sufficiently to all those voices in the print and electronic media that have been putting their opinions out there? Have they contacted amply the officers who were the voices that stood before the face of the status quo?

The PM talks of western democracies and no doubt he must be well meaning, but can he not start to put most of the political and economic capital of the government at the federal and provincial levels to plan for every individual municipality. After all that is the secret to any developed country: planning to bring to power every single municipality- in terms of social sectors, infrastructure, and political rights. The government should seize the day and plan for every single municipality.

The CMs should resolve the issues at the division level, going as far deep as camping there with their officials and redress immediate problems in a matter of weeks. In parallel, they should see to it that every municipality covers all the bases that bring the citizens in the twenty-first century. As a start a number of excellent schools, a handful of decent hospitals- even one to start with would go a long way, a well-planned district courts and revenue offices, and other services, including a well-functioning ombudsman office and police station that are directly being monitored by the IG’s office. The respective CM keeping a close watch over the progress indicators and should periodically visit every division and look after the affairs of all the municipalities there.

The ministries have performed well below par at the federal and provincial levels, and sadly while the PM has been appreciably active in arranging money to keep the country away from bankruptcy and IMF’s bail out, and putting in place deals to attract foreign investment, the performance is lacklustre to say the least of the ministries in coming up with policy documents. They have simply not delivered much apart from the financial fire-fighting led by Ministry of Finance. ‘Carpe Diem’ Mr. PM for the time to act is fast leaving you, and with it the hopes of a country that we have waited for so long. Ask the ministries to seize the day. Push the CMs to do the same. Institutions need to be built for which plans need to be drawn up. Time is fleeting fast.