An abrupt change at the top echelons of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) in the past week not only says much about the quality of governance in the country, but also of the priorities of the top members of the ruling structure.

Dr Suhail Naqvi, an illustrious academic and Executive Director of the HEC, was on Thursday last summarily replaced when a top bureaucrat from the Ministry of Education marched in to take charge of his position.

Dr Naqvi preferred to defy the odds and has chosen to fight back. For now, his fate remains unclear. But the episode is another eye-opener on the coming fate of Pakistan - a country facing an increasingly acute crisis of governance!

Though the motive behind the official move is unclear, Islamabad remains in the grip of a spate of rumours.

One suggests that the change is simply a ploy by the bureaucracy to take charge of an institution such as the HEC, which is among Pakistan’s few noteworthy success stories. In over a decade since the HEC was created, Pakistan has annually produced more graduates armed with PhD degrees, thanks to a new official push in this direction than ever before.

Another rumour, however, suggests that the move is merely a ploy by Pakistan’s ruling structure to take charge of yet another institution and to use it for dishing out jobs in return for political favours.

In a year when Pakistan faces its next parliamentary elections in just a few months, that explanation sounds very plausible. If so, that would be completely in keeping with the character of Pakistan’s ruling structure.

In the past four years since Pakistan’s return to democracy in 2008, the country has been in the midst of a growing list of controversies, each to do with irresponsible choices made by Pakistan’s ruling politicians. A proliferation of new positions across an already bloated and loss-making set of public sector companies has dangerously aggravated public finances.

Consequently, Pakistan has increasingly become surrounded by warnings from independent economists, alerting to the possibility of increasing economic distress for the Muslim world’s only country that happens to be armed with nuclear weapons.

Equally important for Pakistan’s future is, indeed, the fate of the country’s long ignored community of its disempowered and impoverished population. The past four years of Pakistan’s democratic rule and the sustained aggravation of its public finances has just shrunk the financial space for the government’s ability to begin tackling challenges in the most important areas such as education and health care.

Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence across the board suggests a growth in corruption, as Pakistanis have witnessed a decline in the quality of government under the tenure of the present ruling structure. Consequently, the cause of improving the quality of lives across Pakistan has badly suffered.

Given these circumstances, it is abundantly clear that Pakistan as a country is saddled with a worsening quality of life for its mainstream population.

Ironically, the trends surrounding Pakistan today are, probably, more out of sync with the country’s status as a nuclear power than at any other time in its 65-year history as an independent state.

While the dubious circumstances surrounding Dr Naqvi’s attempted replacement may not necessarily affect lives across Pakistan’s mainstream, they say much about the pitiful style adopted by the present-day ruling structure.

A complete disregard for the rule of law by the rulers themselves makes a mockery of the oft repeated claims of good democratic behaviour, frequently heard from ruling politicians. Eventually, it is not just the cause of promoting higher education in Pakistan which will likely suffer.

The unending business of ruling politicians targeting one key institution after another only adds to the aggravation, which surrounds Pakistan today. Unless this march towards destroying the few remnants of the rule of law is immediately halted, Pakistan as a country will likely just become more dysfunctional with the passage of time.

The coming elections may, indeed, be theoretically an opportunity for Pakistanis to elect their next group of rulers; the aggravation across the country ahead of the polls only promises to disfigure the neutrality which must surround this coming process.

The blatant use of the public sector to dish out jobs in return for earning political loyalties amounts to nothing less than further distorting an already distorted democratic process.

The writer is a political and economic analyst. This article has been reproduced from  the Gulf News.