Course correction is required

Most civilian institutions in the country are in total disarray. Unless a major course correction is carried out, meltdown is imminent. While the officers enjoy the perks and privilege of power, the internal ‘mafias’ call the shots. Files move only with ‘speed money’ otherwise, they cannot even be located. Letters, queries, complaints all remain unattended unless backed by a crisp photograph of the Quaid printed on currency notes. Even office hours are not kept. There is no supervision or check, it is free for all. Most public records have either been destroyed or unkempt rendering them irretrievable.

Office timings and useable common toilets are always a litmus test for a public body. Unfortunately both are ill kept. According to the notification of both Governments (Pakistan, Punjab) the office timings are 9am to 5pm one hour of lunch/prayer break at 1 pm. Punctuality is barely above 50% for the staff. No officer shows up before 10am. While toilets for public use are in deplorable condition, officers and staff enjoy the facility of private ones which are well kept. Somehow the public libraries facilities are more humane, may be the aura of books has some influence.

As an immediate course correction step, both office timings and public toilets can be corrected within weeks. The Prime Minister (PM) and the four Chief Ministers (CMs) should issue orders for immediate compliance. Syed Abdullah Ali Shah, father of the current CM Syed Murad Ali Shah ruled over Sindh from 1993 – 1996. He made an interesting statement to highlight his long working hours. “I have to see files while sitting on the commode”. My spontaneous comment to this statement was, “the system is definitely constipated”.

Recently I had discussion with a political heavyweight from the Roti, Kapra, Makan Party. He seemed very sceptical about the PM promise to build 5 million houses in five years. Where will the land come from? I was kind of surprised by this question coming from a Makan party. It will be built and state land which would then be used as a collateral to borrow money from the banks for construction was my reply. Only DHA gets free land no one else can, was his remark. It is for the political leadership to deal with DHA, I will only cover public ownership with you, and then I explained to him about the law of Homestead in USA under which every citizen can take control of 1 square mile of unattached government land.

When the Americans drove the British out of America, several course correction mechanisms were introduced. Ownership of land was transferred from the Queen to the people. The state was there to record and regulate only, not control state land. The entire country was developed by citizens who travelled on covered wagons from the East to the West coast. On the way they were able to declare homestead and own land that they could cultivate and develop with the help of the other family members. When the children came of age they moved further on their own.

Unfortunately in the home of the pure, land is still owned by the Queen, while people are treated as subjects to enjoy prevails only at the behest of Her Majesty. After independence in August 1947 major land reforms were introduced in India. In the land of the pure reforms were tried in the sixties and seventies but with limited success. A bill should be presented in the National Assembly under which ownership of state land should be transferred to the people of Pakistan. In urban areas housing projects should be started while in rural centres land should be first leased for cultivation to landless youth and later transferred to them if they make good use of it.

The PM has already moved out of the official residence, he is only using the secretariat. The Governor Punjab is also in a similar position, his office can easily be moved to 90 Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam. On March 23, 2019 the PM House and the four Governor’s mansions (Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta) should be shut down and converted to centres for Public Policy where future change managers could be trained to serve the masses.

Despite constitutional requirements, devolution has not been done. Under the eighteenth amendment Islamabad has been cut to size, now the role of the provincial capitals has to be redefined. The award of the National Finance Commission (NFC) has to trickle all the way down to the Tehsil level. Public funds must be used for public welfare. Education and health still remain much neglected sectors.

For a major course correction in these vital sectors all government employees and their children should be required to attend government educational and health facilities otherwise like the public toilets in government offices they will remain unusable. I was born in a government hospital and my father died in one but no one desirous of living goes there anymore, this had to change.

In order to move forward Pakistan’s needs serious course correction. The people of the country have to be facilitated. Focus has to be on nation not empire building. Zia’s dark ages (July 1977 to Dec 2017) have to finally end after the elections in July 2018. Only a popularly elected PM like Imran Khan can put the country back on track. The era of loot and plunder is now behind us. It is time to build civilian institutions so that the armed forces can move back to the barracks. Course corrective mechanism should be introduced without delay for meaningful outcome.

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