Pakistan announced its arrival with a bang in the sixties. It evolved a robust and effective institutional mechanism with corresponding development. However, the governance lacked a matching political evolution that caused its undoing. The circulation of capital amongst few became the cry for socio-political reforms. Twenty two families attracted the ire of the working classes as did the politics of exclusion result in disintegration. Public agitation and separation provided openings for much needed political reforms. Due to the lack of public sanction, the economic miracle was short lived. Yet it cannot be denied that the momentum of the economy and development of the sixties has seen Pakistan through to the present day.  Capacity has eroded ever since.

Despite a new constitution, two military interventions interspersed by democratic rule, Pakistan has been unable to re-gear as one of the fastest growing economies of Asia.  Political reforms and evolution based on short sighted self-aggrandising objectives has impacted institutional abilities to act as a check and balance. A case in point is the devolution of power to the provinces under the constitutional amendments. This devolution is meaningless when the provinces lack capacity and frameworks to exercise the powers. The yawning gap opens doors to corruption and inefficiency. Barring KPK, no province is willing to share its powers with the local governments.

Because the momentum of the sixties was lost to political movements, a critical look at the evolution of political parties would explain why Pakistan, despite its promise and potential cannot move forward. Most political parties in Pakistan are undemocratic in internal structures controlled by strong personality cults. The leadership that was nurtured by the military establishment in the case of PML-N, and by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the PPP, has given way to strong dynastic hierarchies that exclude popular sentiment. MQM despite its middle class status and social reforms agenda is firmly controlled by Altaf Hussain. PTI is making efforts towards institutionalism at a high cost to its central control. Its present tri-dimensional struggle between the opportunist, cult and ideologue reflect the strength in its diversity seeking equilibrium and synergy.

The Election Commission of Pakistan is the constitutional watchdog over political parties. The Political Parties Law and provisions within ECP provide it ample clout and powers to act as a surrogate of the people and institutionalise political parties. Unfortunately, ECP has absolved itself of all responsibilities and focuses only on elections. Effectiveness of ECP will make political institutionalism and capacity building more effective; a role it must assume immediately.

In terms of transparency and good governance, there exists a plethora of organisations and regulators that are ineffective due to political appointments. Besides laws, rules and regulations to this effect, there are many mechanisms that under-perform. FIA, anti-corruption departments, SECP, OGRA, NEPRA, CCP, PTA, PPRA, NAB and SBP are some amongst the few that are politicised and inefficient. Their autonomous status is based on principals of fair play in the interests of the state and the people. If these organisations are effective, financial transparency and political ethics will prevail over opportunism. Their combined effort can halt the daily leakages in scores of billions.

For the past few years, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has assumed the responsibility of acting as a check on oversight and regulatory mechanisms. Their judicial forays have been preferential to benefit particular interest groups. It is feared that the present pressure on NAB by the Supreme Judiciary will have more negative than positive effects. NAB must be helped to build capacity in detecting, investigating and prosecuting white collar crime. Rather than belittle this organisation for its investigative and prosecution mechanisms, the apex court would serve better by bringing the prosecution mechanisms and accountability courts into focus, where like terrorism, criminals go scot free. At the end of the day, accountability courts function under the judiciary and its judges must punish prosecutors who dilute evidence.

The SECP and SBP can play a very big role in regulating big businesses, their acquisitions, transactions and malpractices. Mr Muhammad Ali was appointed as Chairman and Commissioner SECP in 2012. He proved his worst critic Barrister Amber Dar wrong and proceeded to reorganise the entire department. By 2013, with her assistance he produced five regulatory manuals to contain fraud and ensure transparency.  These stood in the way of the purchase of HSBC to JS Bank. As a result, Chief Justice Retired Iftikhar Chaudary suddenly awoke from slumber and declared his appointment lacking due process. The entire exercise at capacity building was halted in tracks.

Yasin Anwar the ex-governor SPB slashed interest rates by 1.5% despite. So far the federal government has successfully blocked a move to discuss NBP accounts that extended billions to questionable collaterals. His appointment though controversial and widely criticised is no more an issue; his exit under duress certainly reflects the politicisation and failure of all regulatory mechanisms in the country and questions their future. The direct control of the ministry of finance over planning commission, FBR, SECP and SBP reflects a poor state of affairs leaving doors ajar for manipulation.

The recent press release by SBP painting a rosy economic picture over a GDP of 4.24 speaks volumes about its lack of regulation and neutrality. In Pakistan’s economy, a GDP of 4-5 is an empirical indicator of rising poverty. A GDP of 5-6 indicates a revolving windfall at top based on consumerism and no trickle down. If Pakistan has to take a viable road to economic recovery and development, the GDP must surpass 7 and be maintained above it for many years through sustainable micro indices.

The reorganisation of PSO and oversight through NEPRA, OGRA and IPPS has defeated its purpose. Regulators have been awarded a manipulative stake through political appointees. Ministries of Irrigation, Oil and Gas and organisations like WAPDA have been denuded. Pakistan’s entire energy reliance is now in the hands of foreign controlled multi nationals that work in cahoots with PSO, NEPRA, CCP and OGRA through a snowball of circular debt and distribution companies. Unless this vicious circle is broken, Pakistan’s economy will remain a hostage.

Liberalisation of economy and privatisation is a wonderful buzzword but needs effective regulators who play their neutral role in the interests of the state and public. Hence the need is to build their capacity rather than use them to cover suspicious footprints. Similarly, the federal and provincial governments need professionals to build capacity and execution. As for political parties, the ire of ECP must fall on them to force reforms.