Headless chicken or head-on. Both these two words have a negative connotation. Yet these two words describe the state of our state institutions. The story of our institutions becoming lost, paralyzed, and dysfunctional is not new but what is new is how rapidly they are now precipitating the fall of the economy, systems, and regulations. State enterprises have been white elephants for decades. From PTV to PIA and from Pak Steel to Pak Railways they run on subsidy, loans and bailouts. However this virus has now spread to state institutions, and state organs at a rate that is literally questioning the very existence of these institutions. FBR, NAB, SECP, have been recently exposed as hubs of selective regulation. NEPRA, OGRA and many other regulatory bodies are undergoing massive status changes to make them capable of fabricating reports that suit those who govern them.

In a true and strong democracy the state institutions serve as a check and balance on government performance through governance and safeguard the will of the people of the country. However the institutions in Pakistan are coveted for favours to person and party loyalists. The spirit of democracy requires that the regulatory environment is conducive to enforce the rights of the people and the writ of the government. However these institutions are subverted by infiltrating them with people whose competence and character have no merit for the position in question. The latest debate on appointment of the new head of National Accountability Bureau is a typical example. The Parliament’s job is to make laws to protect the people. The law makers themselves many times are law breakers. Thus instead of making laws that protect people they make laws that protect themselves from any check and balance on the abuse of law.

The head of National Accountability Bureau by law is to be chosen through mutual consent of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. It took a few meetings and a phone call and the name of the ex-judge Justice Javed Iqbal was finalized out of the 9 names proposed. This was done lawfully but does that mean it fulfills the criteria of choosing the best man for the job? Not really. The law is deficient in laying down the screening criteria of the chosen candidate and the final selection basis. This laxness in laws is a deliberate attempt by the parliamentarians to ensure personal biases to be accommodated. Parliament is the prime democracy pillar and if this pillar is weak all else will be futile.

The selection criteria of NAB head is an example of a law that just defines that a judge or bureaucrat can be selected without stipulating any criteria on credentials and capabilities. Fakhrunddin G Ibrahim is a classic example of a man with integrity failing to perform due to capability issues. Even when a criterion is defined it is rarely adhered to. PIA is a typical example of this criminal neglect. A German CEO was hired last year to head PIA. Why and how, nobody knows. Brandt Hilderbrandt was hired without following the criteria of advertising and short listing on education and experience. He was apparently not even a graduate and was responsible for the disastrous premiere service initiated from Islamabad to London on leased planes of Sri Lanka on exorbitant cost. Lately it was found out that despite his name being on ECL the German CEO somehow escaped and also took a PIA plane with him which is now lying in a German museum. CEOs being hired, fired, escaping, stealing national assets and nobody seems to know, and more tragically, care. This is the sad story of our state enterprises which are bleeding Rs 500 billion yearly and are at the mercy of these institutional raiders whose job description is to create mass merit disruption.

The other very convenient way of running institutions to their demise is by adhocism and extensions. Top posts of power distributing and generating companies (DISCOs & GENCOs), OGDCL, Utility Stores Corporation, Auditor General and the State Bank were also lying vacant for a long period of time with acting heads in charge. DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan), CDA (Capital Development Authority), etc are just a few of the many institutions that are lying headless or are being run by temporary bosses. The question is that is there such a dearth of capable individuals that for years we fail to find the right person for the right job. The answer is No. These posts are for handpicked men who are subservient to obey the PM/or powerbroker law. The intent is to reserve these seats for those who will act as political slaves and do as shall their bosses ordain. Zafar Hijazi the ex-head of SECP is an unfortunate living example of this subservience. SECP which is a main governing body for establishment of companies legally was almost non-existent after the Panama Papers revealed 450 Pakistanis with off shore companies in British Virgin Islands and Panama. He was caught tampering records in favour of the Sharifs and harassing his employees to commit forgery. Arrested, he must be already eyeing other state institutions that are headless and planning his re appointment as soon as the case loses its breaking news value. Saeed Ahmad the ex-State Bank governor had this distinction of being appointed and then as the uproar gathered force on this appointment based on only one criteria i.e his loyalty to Ishaq Dar, he resigned and was duly made the head of National Bank of Pakistan.

It is a vicious circle made and maintained by vicious above-the-law people. Laws are made, amended, by law makers who have a record of being law benders and law diluters. They are in majority in the parliament and under the guise of this numerical superiority continuously weaken the power of the institution over the individual. The Electoral Reforms Bill is an example of this dictatorial democracy where party constitution and country constitution was amended overnight to reinstate a man who had been declared by the highest court as neither honest nor sagacious.

These institutional raiders eat up the governing capabilities of these organizations leaving them vulnerable to the whims and fancies of the highest position holders. To combat these powerful weapons of mass destructions, institutional reforms safeguarding them from individual dominance is the only long term solution.

The selection criteria of NAB head is an example of a law that just defines that a judge or bureaucrat can be selected without stipulating any criteria on credentials and capabilities.