It does not need any political acumen to see the reality behind the results of those surveys which declare the governance in the province of Punjab as better or best in comparison to other provinces. Building flyovers or such “marvels” within a stipulated time or following the PPRA (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority) rules is no feat; that should go on on its own as a matter of routine. Reaching at any place where for instance a hapless woman has been raped, or a heinous murder has taken place, or in the midst of flood-ravaged people by no means can be termed good governance. It is at best ruling and behaving like a royalty.
Common sense does not tolerate high-sounding praises of such governance by those analysts who believe wisdom is their handmaid and it is they who are there to teach the ignoramuses. Would they ever try to understand that such kingly governance has already become part of the dusty memoirs of the royal personages! We are living in the second decade of the 21st century and there are models of governance which do not focus on personal presence, personal redressal of grievances of the citizens, centralized decision-making, discretionary powers and discretionary funds for elected or appointed / nominated state functionaries, etc. Instead, they encourage independent systemic arrangements for delivery of the services to the citizens with in-built mechanism of accountability; they include on the one hand services like security of person and property, dispensation of justice, which form the core functions of a state; and on the other, provision of social services such as potable water, sanitation, paved and cleaner streets, parks and play-grounds (etc) to each citizen, the determination of which depends on the stage of evolution the society concerned stands at.
As against this, whatever the system of governance the province of Punjab has had, it is being systematically demolished and now it is more than 10 years that this model of personal governance has taken over this unfortunate province. Not only that, the autocratic decision-making in addition to autocratic supervision of everything happening or taking place in Punjab substantiates this model. It is sickening, and one can imagine the plight of those officers and officials who are working under its monarchical set-up. It is rotten and mean. In fact, it is governance in the service of personal whims and likes and dislikes. Everything comes from the office of the chief minister and, likewise, everything goes back to the office of the chief minister. Is not it symptomatic of a deeply entrenched political disease that a number of ministries rest and relax in the person of the chief minister of Punjab; as if he is the source of everything that the government of the province is meant to deal with!
Under the circumstances, the most pertinent question is: Is this model of personal governance a model of governance at all? This question itself gives rise to many other questions: What purpose does this model of personal governance serve? Ultimately, in whose interest, does it exist? What achievements has this model recorded in its name? Has it been able to accomplish any of the above-mentioned two types of services the provision of which every model of governance aims at?
First, the model of governance being practiced in Punjab is no model of governance; it is personal, i.e. it derives its justification and effectiveness from the person who is the chief executive of the province, and not from the chief executive of the province. That may seem tautologous, but it’s not. As is the case, a chief executive is the executive head of a province, and not the whole thing himself as a monarch used to be; he heads all those domains and departments which come under his constitutional and lawful authority. He is not those domains and departments himself; nor they form his person. It is in that spirit that decentralization and specialization find their rationale.
Second, this model of personal governance exists only for the person who is at the helm of the affairs. In this case, it translates into a chief minister of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, and it amounts to saying that in order to accrue political-cum-party gains, the model of governance existing in the books of the Punjab government is being undermined. For example, when the chief minister reaches to an aggrieved person personally, it may serve that person to see his grievance redressed, but the final and the solid gain lies with the chief minister, because that personal beneficent act of the chief minister does not replicate. That’s royal beneficence!
Third, to do justice to this model, it needs to take into account what are the achievements of this personal governance. No doubt, there are certain solid accomplishments, such as efforts to bring transparency in the affairs of certain departments and introduce the e-governance. Simultaneously that raises a lot of questions as to the effectiveness of such efforts: How far these efforts are successful and how much they are trickling down! For instance, as the chief minister’s claim of annihilating the corruption from the province proves to be a fiction, it is yet to be seen how these efforts are going to improve the lot of the citizens. The fact is that the state machinery in Punjab is still as exploitative and as corrupt as it was 5 or 10 years earlier.
Lastly, has this model of personal governance scored any success as far as core functions of the state are concerned; and also what about the social services which the provincial government is supposed to make provision of to the citizens? Not only has increased the sense of insecurity in Punjab, but social life of the citizens also sees no improvement, rather there is deterioration in spite of the network of the roads, over-head bridges and under-passes, etc. On both counts, this model of personal governance fails miserably. Fear the day when Mr. Shahbaz Sharif is no more the chief minister of Punjab and whosoever takes charge from him will have to start from the scratch to put or restore a model of systemic governance back to its due place, if he wishes so, and he will be facing a Herculean task!
Note: This article was completed on September 26 and was originally posted in October 2014.