It’s hard to hate a man who is single-handedly responsible for permanently ruining countless expensive suits by dragging senior bureaucrats along with him into streets flooded by knee-high rain water. Punjab Chief Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, may not be many things, but he is certainly a passionate character. Known as the CM who hardly ever sleeps, he attracts both criticism and praise for his ‘I’ll-do-it-myself’ approach. At one point in his last tenure, Mr Khadim-e-Aala held portfolios of approximately 18 ministries.  And even now, encouraged by his party’s re-election which heavily depended on his role as the Chief Minister, there is no sign of an end to the totalitarian administrative approach which has become his trademark. On Saturday, the CM stormed out of a meeting, being held at Model Town; frustrated with the lack of progress on curtailing gas and electricity theft, and warned officials of serious consequences if they failed to take action.

The dedication and the energy are admirable, really, but the question remains: Is the third-time CM’s method behind the madness effectively countering fundamental glitches in the system, or is it merely scratching the surface? The fact that Shehbaz Sharif has to issue ultimatums to officers every other day, and rush to places in order to ensure desired results, reveals the fragility and ineffectiveness of the system. The obvious indicator to establish whether a system requires serious reform is if it relies too heavily on a single personality. The CM must realise that men come and go, they are dispensable, but institutions are there to stay. Therefore, it is imperative to make institution-building the focal point of his administration. That has always been the prime focus of successful administrators throughout history. This might hurt, but Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital is a good example. Khan or no Khan, it will continue working smoothly. But, can the same be said about WASA, LESCO, LDA and other things that keep the CM up at night? Probably not. The CM’s modus operandi itself speaks volumes about his lack of confidence in the capabilities of the bureaucracy working under him. Delegation of responsibility is essential but, it will only make sense if the staff is competent. To ensure that, it is high time that meritocracy is allowed to prevail over nepotism.

No matter what the level of energy or concern, something of permanence cannot be achieved if the priorities are not intelligently defined. The country can afford its leaders sleeping for an additional hour or two, as long as they work on the right things while they are awake.