Imran Munir Awan Hast thou not heard that a lean scholar One day said to a fat fool: 'Although an Arab horse may be weak, It is still worth more than a stable full of asses. Sheikh Saadi Ever wondered why this countrys affairs are in a perpetual state of mess? Nothing in any department of life offers a hint of orderliness or discipline. Chaos reigns supreme as much in the management of public affairs as in the minds of our leadership. Almost all public sector enterprises are teetering on the edge of failure. Pakistan Railways is falling to pieces; the PIA is down at the heel because of massive mismanagement and inefficiency; and Pakistan Steel Mills is besieged by allegations of corruption to the tune of Rs 22 billion. Whats more, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg, as numerous such instances remain unexposed. Moreover, it does not require a sage to guess that the power shortages confronting this hapless nation are the result of shoddy planning, lack of foresight and gross inefficiencies of those in charge of affairs. After his shameful failure to make good on the promise to end loadshedding by December 2009, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Federal Minister for Water and Power, should have resigned without demur. But that is an attribute we normally associate with men of honour and integrity. The Haj scandal hardly requires retelling. The national economy is doddering perilously close to the abyss. If all this sounds a bit too grim, switch on the telly and watch the comedy spectacularly played out on screen regularly, by the charlatans and ignoramuses occupying vital positions in government and other major institutions. Indeed, this would be highly comical if it was not tragic. So, to what do we attribute this total disarray and a hopeless failure to deliver on major fronts? It all boils down to monumental incompetence, nepotism and, crucially, cronyism. What do you think will happen if you asked the driver of a pushcart to fly an aircraft? Or, to be less fantastical, imagine an ordinary staff nurse given the task to perform a complicated brain surgery. Disaster is never too far off in such situations. Similarly, when the reins of government and other big institutions are in the hands of ordinary coachmen, the ride is sure to be eventful. With a bad driver at the wheel, survival becomes the predominant aim of struggle, not to win the race. Sadly, thats whats happening with this country. We are struggling desperately to stay afloat in a world that is zooming past in an unprecedented march of progress. To be sure, we have no shortage of talent and resources. It is the talentless twits, flaunting impressive job titles and wielding heavy political and financial clout, who lie at the heart of the problem. It is those monopolising hordes of the ruling elite, with self-interest at the top of their agenda, who are depriving millions in this country of a fair opportunity to realise their potential. A states primary responsibility is to look after the well being of its citizens. In our case, however, all the principles and assumptions of political science have to be turned upside down to bring some perspective to our situation. We are left to fend for ourselves in all walks of life, from providing security to creating employment opportunities and producing power through generators and other private means, in order to light our homes and businesses. Corruption and mismanagement form the basis of much conversation on the performance of this government. But even the drift of public discourse betrays a lack of direction. Theres too much focus on the usual day-to-day shenanigans of the political leadership. Whats lacking is sufficient attention to core structural problems. There are unlimited dangers in allowing incompetent people to retain leading positions in any institution. Not only do they hinder progress, but also pose a serious threat to the very fabric of the institution. The culture of incompetence spreads at a remarkable speed. It is a vicious cycle, for the talentless leader, boss or whoever prefers the company and services of equally, or even more brainless characters, in order to feel secure in their position. With lack of ability comes poverty of solutions. The situation assumes depressing proportions when incompetence at the top undermines and sabotages much of the brilliant work being done at the lower tiers. It is not surprising, then, if a great number of people in this country feel outraged. The general trend shows that there are no incentives or rewards for talent, skill and competence. Merit has no meaning or value in a place controlled by morons. This not only stokes resentfulness, but also leads to demoralisation. There are perhaps few crimes bigger than quashing a persons motivation in life. Any organisation or society that has a de-motivating influence on its members is doubtless going to the dogs. Dismaying as the situation is, it requires urgent remedies. Any solution has to begin with cleaning out the stables. Put the right people in the right positions and things will soon start looking up. Hope and optimism will return in no time. The remedy to our problems, big and small, lies in clearing the way for talent untainted by greed and selfishness. The writer is an academic. Email: