The Punjab governor’s resignation

His resignation is another link to this chain of significant ‘nos’ to an outdated and decadent mode of governance

Nasim Zehra January 30, 2015
The writer is a political and security analyst, an anchor at Channel 24, and a fellow of Harvard University's Asia Centre. She tweets @NasimZehra

Now, it is Governor Chaudhry Sarwar. Another loud ‘no’. This should make us hopeful.

What is changing in Pakistan is that the ‘no’ to bad governance, to the disdain of the ruling class towards ordinary citizen, to unaccountable authority and indeed to unconstitutional moves, is growing louder and is coming from unprecedented sources.

After the 2006 lawyers’ movement, the implicit battle cry of which was ‘no’ to arbitrary martial rule and ‘yes’ to an independent judiciary, Pakistan is throwing up a string of very welcome rejections. It is in these rejections that the seeds for new beginnings, for a more competent and lawful management of Pakistan, lie. Equally, written into the very blunders committed by governments themselves, is the rejection of the current way of handling the management of Pakistan. The latest petrol crisis unequivocally demonstrated the failure of inter-ministerial coordination, the impotence of the regulatory authority in ensuring the required oil reserves and the failure of the government to follow rules of business laid down for the functioning of critical decision-making platforms like the Economic Coordination Committee. How the elected government handled the petrol crisis was another textbook case of denial and passing the buck. The petroleum minister insisted that the issue wasn’t serious for anyone, save for the media, which was reporting it. The prime minister, upon returning from Saudi Arabia, in his imperial manner, sent home four bureaucrats on charges of incompetence. The principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ was reserved for his political men. The minister remains in position at least until the prime minister gets the inquiry results. By then, the prime minister must hope that the media will forget about the crisis.

The cumulative effect of this despicable mode of governance is throwing up its own responses. Last year, we saw Imran Khan, a mainstream politician despite his several strategic mistakes, inject into the mainstream discourse — and continually so, for 120-plus days — the weaknesses of the ruling class. It was energy well-spent. As the leader of a party that bagged the second largest number of votes in the 2013 elections, Imran’s words carried more weight than the words of the pained, poor and marginalised people of Pakistan. More weight than the voices of critics, human rights activists and writers who for decades have been pointing out the absence of the rule of law, the dangers of martial interventions, lack of competence, the active marginalisation of the already poor and deprived. As the PTI leader toured several cities, demanding greater justice and improved governance for Pakistan, the turnout in public meetings was evidence that beyond the handful of ruling families, all Pakistanis, even the affluent, understand that these islands of relative prosperity are unsustainable.

The government machinery, the justice system, the service-delivery structure, the elements of decent daily existence like electricity, gas, water etc. are all being grossly mismanaged. And the response of the elected government is hugely inadequate. It is highlighted by its incompetence, nepotism and insecurity that breed mediocrity and greed for greater wealth. All these problems inevitably lead to a crisis of comprehension in almost all legislatures. No one seems to understand how complex or comprehensive the challenge is.

The latest political development, the resignation of the Punjab governor, Chaudry Ghulam Sarwar, is another link to this chain of significant ‘nos’ to an outdated and decadent mode of governance. The story of the governor is an interesting one.

When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif imported a long-time British-Pakistani politician from the UK, many of us severely criticised the decision. The prime minister had rewarded Chaudhry Sarwar for the hospitality he had extended to him while Nawaz was not in power, in a manner no different from the unaccountable, all-powerful emperors and nawabs, who have rewarded imported men with high posts in their own estate. The prime minister wasn't to be deterred. He had his own loyalist as governor. Brother and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was to be comfortably covered with a loyalist — a man who owed his office to the PML-N chief. But Chaudhry Sarwar, after taking over as governor, began repeating what he said in response to us critics. I may have lived abroad, I may be a British citizen but as a Pakistani, I am keen to contribute to the development of my original home. Chaudhry Sarwar wanted to improve social sector delivery, health, education etc., in Pakistan. But over the last few months, he began criticising. In the very tone that others have done before. Now he has made an honourable move of resigning. Newspapers are full of his wide-ranging criticism of the government and of his Pakistani political mentor.

Clearly, the current mode of governance is a recipe for resentment and dissatisfaction and bitter fragmentation of society. Democratic governments must be run by law, by competence and for the people.

Are Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments listening?

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2015.

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Parvez | 8 years ago | Reply

Madam they are beyond listening and caring. Their exit strategies are in place and the country's health is the last thing on their minds.

Shahid Kinnare | 8 years ago | Reply

I will ask Nasim Zehra concentrate on positive instead of negativity. Their is lot of good happening in Pakistan. An as journalist you should do some program on it. I understand that doing program on Positive need hard work and lot of resources,but it can be done.

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