Dysfunctional Institutions and Pakistan’s Governance Crisis

In Pakistan, good governance has remained an immaterialised dream. We usually hide behind justifications and blame game whenever the question of governance arises. That is why Pakistan besides of having immense potential, is considered one of the poorest countries in the world. Almost all types of indicators are depicting the said reality. Even African countries have started to perform and are expected to be on economic track of progress and development. The East Asian countries like South Korea and Vietnam are about to out power many developed economies. China is another tremendous case in this regard. Not surprisingly, progress made by Bangladesh should be a lesson for us. Pakistan is far ahead if we compare its potential with the aforementioned countries. Its labour force is larger, it is highly rich in natural resources, its agricultural potential is unmatched, its strategic location is a great leverage and its huge population (including the youth bulge) makes it a huge market. So, the question is why a country having immense potential is not performing well?

It is an empirically proven fact that monarchies and dictatorships start to develop if functionality of institutions is intact.

There are many plausible reasons for this gloomy situation, but dysfunctional institutions are the primary cause of bad governance which generatesa chain of problems.  It is an established reality that the institutions make and shape governance. It is an empirically proven fact that monarchies and dictatorships start to develop if functionality of institutions is intact.  In other words, it is the functionality of the institutions that makes systems like monarchies and authoritarianisms workable and beneficial. It is pertinent to mention here that monarchy or authoritarianism is not advocated, but rather emphasised with regards to importance of functionality of the institutions, as half governance is done when functionality is intact.

Almost all the functional aspects or attributes of our institutions are paralysed. Underdeveloped human resource, capacity issues, lack of proper trainings, absence of meaningful checks and balances system, colonial burden, political instability and politicisation are the foundational causes of dysfunctional institutions. Each of these causes took decades to make institutions dysfunctional resulting in abysmal condition of governance. In other words, ensuing dysfunctionality in the institutions is the by-product of aforesaid causes.

Underdeveloped human resource, capacity issues, lack of proper trainings, absence of meaningful checks and balances system, colonial burden, political instability and politicisation are the foundational causes of dysfunctional institutions.

Underdeveloped human resource is the chief foundational cause of dysfunctional institutions. This is a time and again proven fact that our underdeveloped human resource is repeatedly hindering efficiency of institutions and making governance bad to worse.

On a broader level, the top three institutions – legislature, executive and judiciary – are largely filled with underdeveloped human resource. Many a time, this issue has surfaced either by the actions of the members of these institutions or by not carrying out the responsibilities which they are bound to fulfil. Legislatures are doing all kinds of developmental projects except for legislation. Most of them are not aware of the meaning and purpose of legislation in accordance with modern times. The concept and practice of filibustering is almost absent in all legislation which indicates that they are not understanding the significance of it.

Legislatures are doing all kinds of developmental projects except for legislation. Most of them are not aware ofthe meaning and purpose of legislation in accordance with modern times.

On the other hand, we have the case of Civil Service, which makesthe backbone of executive. Until 1970s, the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) was considered as one of best institutions in terms of offering promising careers for young graduates. But due to aforesaid menaces, the CSP started to decay and today is said to be worst in South Asia. Many a time, reforms were proposed but they could never be materialised due to various reasons. Currently, CSP becomes the ultimate destination of students either as a choice or as a compulsion. Each year, thousands of students are appearing in the Civil Services exams and merely few hundreds are getting allocations. But the fundamental question remains the same over the years that why our civil servants are incapable even after getting extensive training. The answer is rooted in our poor education system and lack of focus on producing specialised individuals. In other words, current civil servicesare the true reflection of quality of our education system. Indeed, there are many other flaws regarding competitive examination – syllabus, subjects, training, group allocation and much more but without improving our education standards, all overhauling will be counterproductive.

At present, our institutions are at a collapsing stage and if this remains unaddressed, it would result in anarchy in the society though with different manifestations as our intangible (social rules and values) institutions are also on the brink of extinction.

Moreover, all the other foundational causes mentioned earlier are facing more or less same crippling condition. Undoubtedly, political instability is the gravest among all. This crippling situation coupled with lack of coordination, internal strife or disharmony, influenced by powerful people, corruption, loss of institutional momentum and living in a state of denial are further making the institutions bad to worse. It is an established fact in the history of governance that when a situation prevails for a long time, the trajectory of the institutions will be nothing but inertness, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, malfunctioning/dysfunctionality and collapse of institutions. At present, our institutions are at a collapsing stage and if this remains unaddressed, it would result in anarchy in the society though with different manifestations as our intangible (social rules and values) institutions are also on the brink of extinction.

In the absence of proper functioning of institutions, it would be delusional to expect economic prosperity and development.

After the breakout of COVID-19 in Wuhan, the way China responded to the pandemic was unmatched and unparalleled. Contextually, it is being said that China’s governance model is the most efficient model across the globe specifically in current times. In Chinese culture, governance should be time-bound based on proactive strategic response. It reminds one of Sun Tzu’s dictum that if command is communicated with ambiguity and message is not delivered to the subordinates, then fault lies on commander’s side; and if command is communicated with clarity and message is delivered to the subordinates but remains immaterialised, the fault lies on the side of subordinates.  It should be noted that command is delivered by commander (governing elite) and materialisation of command must be a die-hard duty of institutions. This wise dictum is the backbone of China’s governance and this can be the solution to our institutional crisis. It does not mean we should go for authoritarian rule but rather ensure institutional efficiency and functionality through aforesaid strategy under the constitutional ambit. Therefore, in the absence of proper functioning of institutions, it would be delusional to expect economic prosperity and development.

Khaqan Ahmad

Khaqan Ahmad

has done M.Phil in International Relations from the National Defense University, Islamabad.

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