LAHORE - Though the year 2008 may be considered as a replay of Shahbaz Sharif's previous stint as Punjab Chief Minister, yet the much-anticipated picture-perfect performance of the government still presents the gloomiest scenarios on almost all fronts of governance, facility provision and welfare. One can hear embroidered slogans yet to be actualised on ground. People are still looking up to the government for launching major public-oriented initiatives, which could provide immediate relief to the masses, leading difficult life in comparison to previous years, as they find little to spend from their ever-shrinking pockets on high-priced commodities, pay utility bills and ever-rising transport fares despite steep fall in the petroleum prices. If on one hand, the flour crisis came to an end due to the availability of wheat and plugging of porous provincial borders, the power outages, gas and petrol shortages have surfaced in the winters demanding immediate redressal from the government. No doubt, the PML-N led provincial coalition government has its own share of problems, primarily created by 'Musharraf-appointed governor Salmaan Taseer' - as highlighted by the N-Leaguers - but a lot could have been done. "What can you do when even mere appoints are kept under lock at the Governor's House, while people are looking for relief at the Ombudsman's office?" quizzed a senior officer while giving a supporting argument for the delay in the much-wanting service delivery by the government. He did not have defence to the oath-taking of the provincial Ombudsman and Chairman Punjab Service Tribunal in the absence of the Governor. However, he conceded that the government is yet to launch major initiatives, which would bring relief to the masses. "No doubt, sasti roti scheme (subsidised roti scheme) did not make much success with the masses, but it definitely gave something to the government to cheer about. Secondly, the hospitals are working in a better manner in comparison with previous years, but the government has not given any long-term policy for mending the wrongs afflicting the present sorry state of affairs," he added. He was quick to add that a comprehensive education policy should have been announced at least during the last nine months. To him, the sense of 'doing maximum in the minimum possible time' virtually led the government into dark alleys, because "the tracks of so-many opened fronts could not be watched. Consequently, one can see a lot is being done, while the rest are awaiting to be mended, but the government is marred by incapacity of political figures of lower tiers, and junior officers, who lack the vision to materialise the demands and come up with the new ideas for the betterment of the masses." One of the major areas where huge concentration was paid, were the administrative changes, which were made after the February 18 polls. The bureaucracy was virtually reshuffled like pebbles in an iron pot, but positive results are yet to be seen because there is a complete failure in brining much-required change in attitude, which is a must for actualising directions and instructions of the government. "All seniors, who had the experience of working for the previous political dispensation, were shunted out to Islamabad on a mere pretext of having loyalty with the Q-League, while the new ones were not given ample time and space because they were also quickly transferred from one department to another," said a senior officer adding that the incumbents should also believe that they too had been labelled political affiliates of the PML-N. "Will this vicious chain keep on stigmatising the bureaucrats in the coming years?" questioned the officer with an obvious answer that the present leading officers must rise above the considerations which could trouble them in the future. In order to meet the above-mentioned end of doing better for the masses, the Nazimate system - 'devolution of corruption to the grassroot level' as averred by the present officialdom - was virtually made redundant by tacitly empowering the District Coordination Officers, and further supporting them with the re-introduction of the Divisional Commissioners. This did not stop here, as administrative secretaries were 'verbally' given the charge of various towns, primarily for thraah breaking (removal of encroachments), and cleanliness, though people were looking for provision of facilities. "But the hand-picked administration is also suffering from fatal fear of the unknown, as anything - from arrests to suspensions to the transfers, either as an Officers on Special Duty or repatriation to Islamabad - can happen sans ascribing tangible reason or nothing at all," said a senior officer seeking anonymity adding that Registrar Cooperatives Maqsood Qadir Shah, a BS-18 officer was heading many BS-19 officers, like what was happening in other areas as well. "On this front, there are three Ns - Nil, Nothing and Nasty - for the administration. 'Nil' is the result of 'Nothing' measures punctuated by 'Nasty' attitude of the top bosses," said another officer who is visibly disgruntled due to the adhocism being practised in the running of the administration. One of the best steps taken by the government is the termination of re-employed on contract, which was done on April 10 by virtue of which over 3000 persons were sent home with a single stroke of pen. However, this was undone as the government instead of pursuing the policy of not re-employing on contract across the board, itself violated it by giving contract to over a dozen media consultants, and chairmen of various organisations - TEVTA, Ombudsman, Task Forces - as per Management and Professional Scales, who are drawing hundred of thousands of rupees as pays besides other perks. However, the results of their efforts are to be seen in 2009. On the other hand, the Chairman Punjab Public Service Commission is yet to be appointed since Tariq Sultan exited from there about five months back. Moreover, when the present incumbents came to power, there were loud clamours about the embezzlements of the previous regime. Consequently, to unearth the crimes, tribunals were constituted, which are yet to submit their reports. "The year 2008 has been as angry and as angst-ridden as its predecessor. Our prayers for 2009 remain the same, even more so. There is little one can add there. Since the past is prologue to the present, we wish to look beyond both past and present, into the future. Just as the demons of 2007 continued to haunt us in 2008, the events of 2008 will define Pakistan's 2009 - for good or for bad. But which of the many - too many - momentous events of 2008 will have the greatest impact on defining what happens in Pakistan in 2009?" said an officer whose hope against hope is making him survive the crunch times.