At Penpoint With the Prime Minister having said last Thursday that technocracy is not acceptable, he did not just raise that very spectre, but also that of Pakistan following the example of Bangladesh, something which previously could not be imagined. However, that leads to the inevitable question of what exactly happened in Bangladesh recently, and how that example would be applicable to Pakistan. On the face of it, the idea is attractive: replace a corrupt government consisting of politicians by experts from the bureaucracy, as well as some judges, who have recently won the public trust by their activism. It also has the advantage of excluding the military, though it demands its backing, for in both Bangladesh and Pakistan, there is a strong tradition of military coups. However, the time for such a takeover would depend on the military - Bangladesh has a more comprehensive caretaker provision than Pakistan - with the elected government being replaced by a caretaker Cabinet of advisers, headed by a Chief Adviser, while in Pakistan, a caretaker Prime Minister takes over at the head of a caretaker Cabinet consisting of full-fledged ministers. The Bangladeshi Chief Adviser was supposed to be the most recently retired Chief Justice, and there are not supposed to be more than 10 advisers. If no former Chief Justice is willing to serve, then former judges are to be asked, in order of seniority, and if none is still available, only then is the office thrown open to any citizen. On the other hand, the only Pakistani restriction is that caretakers should not be candidates for election. The Bangladeshi caretakers operated for the 1996 and 2001 elections. However, when elections became due in 2006, President Iajuddin Ahmed used the non-availability provision to make himself Chief Advisor. However, he too was unacceptable, though as a former college professor, he should have been. President Iajuddin then appointed Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former Governor of Bangladeshs Central Bank, an economist and civil servant, and someone involved in micro-credit. He then headed a government of expert advisers, and remained in office for two years, exceeding his constitutional tenure of 90 days by a very long shot. However, the ultimate result was elections, again between the ANP led by Hasina Wajed and the BNP headed by Khaleda Zia. Not only were they survivors of assassinated leaders, but they had also alternated in power with each election. And despite the charges of corruption that were so common while they were in office, and though the caretaker government tried to tackle that, they were back as the contenders for office when elections were held. Before there is too much enthusiasm for this particular solution, it should be remembered that it did not serve to remove from politics either Sheikh Hasina or Begum Zia, probably because they both represent something to their followers for which even corruption will be forgiven. Similarly, even though the Bhuttos have been killed, their party continues, because it represents something to its followers. Second, even though the technocrats formed the government, they did not solve the problems of the country. Perhaps, one of the reasons was that the government was one which was always destined to make way for an elected government. When the elected government returned, so did the problems. This raises inevitable questions about democracy in Pakistan, but does not point to a solution. After all, Bangladesh formed part of Pakistan until 1971, and may have inherited its love of military coups. The recent Bangladesh example may have shown a dislike of military coups, though the caretaker government was military-backed, and military governments are also 'technocratic, while headed by a military man, and containing military representation. One of the reasons for the creation of Bangladesh has been the lack of democracy within Pakistan, and its periodically going under military rule. However, Bangladesh itself has frequently gone under undemocratic rule, meaning that Bangladeshis do share something with Pakistanis, even if it is resignation at military rule. Perhaps, India has not gone under military rule because the country is too big, or perhaps Indians are naturally more inclined to take on Western, or rather capitalist methods, including its system of ruling. However, it does seem that giving power to a 'Cabinet of all the talents does not actually deliver the best governance to the people. Actually, the first 'Cabinet of all the talents was formed after the death of Pitt the Younger in 1806, and fell the same year. Supposedly, a coalition at a moment of national crisis (the head of government dead in the middle of a war), its collapse and lack of achievement was not enough to end the idea of a Cabinet comprising the best talents. Then, as now, in the UK it merely meant a multiparty coalition. (David Camerons present coalition was called a ministry of all the talents because it is a Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition). It also assumes that the minister must be talented in his own portfolio. He need not be under democracy, and should merely act as an efficient PR man for his ministry generally, but particularly in Parliament and in Cabinet. The ministry is run by its permanent civil servants, headed by the ministrys Secretary, a civil servant with a lot of experience and presumably expertise. Failures in governance (and in Pakistan there are many) are to be put down at least partly to the personal shortcomings and incompetencies of the permanent civil servants. Is there a possibility that a technocrats government like Bangladeshs would not serve the 'war on terror? That would be so unlikely as to be impossible. However, the talk is a sign that America has probably realised that President Asif Zardari has not delivered the victory in Afghanistan the US hankers for, and thus his usefulness is now outweighed by corruption, which was also a convenient excuse in Bangladesh, even though it was not rooted out. To deliver Pakistan for the 'war on terror will require a government with even more support among the masses, yet a comparable commitment to the USAs side in the war. A technocrats government would, hopefully for the Americans, be able to deliver this. This might ignore the people of Pakistan, but that is something the US is good at doing. Therefore, the choice for the true Pakistani probably leaves the US in charge, unless there is a true change of system which is inimical to Washington, or rather its 'war on terror. Preserving the regime means preserving support for the war. Changing the regime only means bringing in American supporters. The only alternative, changing the entire system so that it would no longer mean supporting the US, has implications disturbing to Pakistans elite. Also, it would mean the ordinary people making great sacrifices at the same time as they got greater opportunities. However, it may well be that the Pakistani peoples desire to have an honest government answering its aspirations may outweigh the present (and past) kowtowing to American needs. The elite should be aware that its self-preservation lies in its ability to jettison the Americans and stop playing so much on the 'threat to democracy, which has not worked in the past. Neither with the people of Pakistan, who have accepted military coups, nor with the US, which has first given the green signal then used the military regimes. The 'threat to democracy card would only work if democracy was seen as working. Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk