There seems to be a significant disconnect between what Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announces and what the government is actually able to deliver in terms of services to citizens. This became especially apparent on the prime minister’s recent visit to Dadu where he was forced to explain the delay in the distribution of Watan cards. The scheme is a good idea in that it allows the government to efficiently disburse aid while minimising the chances of theft and helping to document the undocumented. However, all of those benefits rely on the government actually distributing them amongst flood victims, which seems to be beyond the capabilities of the bureaucracy at the moment. While the prime minister distributed some in Dadu, the task of aid disbursement cannot be accomplished by him alone.
The prime minister has on several occasions expressed his frustration at the inability of the bureaucracy to follow through on his orders. One can understand his frustration and appreciate it as a sign of sincere effort. However, as prime minister he has powers beyond expressing frustration and he can order disciplinary action against any official. There also seems to be a certain adhocism to the government’s relief efforts. For instance, eight newly-wed couples were given Rs200,000 each as part of the flood relief effort. But there have not been any reports of any other flood victims being given the same. Such discrimination serves to further the impression that the current administration takes care of only well-connected supporters. Of late, the prime minister has often spoken that the government will complete its term and those who want to see a new one in power could then use their vote at the next election. The performance of the ruling party at the next polls depends to a great extent on how it oversees the flood aid and relief distribution.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2010.