The issues of society and communities are multiplying with each passing day and the state and its apparatus are finding it increasingly difficult to address them.
We have a number of examples in this connection, which include rising inflation, unemployment, poverty, unabated cases of child abuse, suicide and “honour” killing. There are a number of reasons behind the state of affairs. Resultantly, the state is unable to come up with solutions to multidimensional problems. However, there are a number of causes for multidimensional issues and conflicts in Pakistani society. The two most important reasons need to be especially focused upon. The first is the incapacity and lack of commitment on part of the state and state functionaries to address the issues and crisis. The second cause, which is very much related to the first, is that state functionaries, particularly ministers and civilian bureaucrats, have conventional idiosyncrasies and ways of working. The conventional thinking of the bureaucrats and ministers has prevented them from coming up with solutions to problems, issues and needs of society and communities. Whereas, the fact of the matter is that many issues of Pakistani society are so complex that they need a holistic, multijurisdictional and networked approach to befittingly and meaningfully address them. Experts of governance call the approach “new governance.” It is important to note that the term “governance” gained currency when many hierarchical states, in the decades of 1970s and 1980s, increasingly failed to address the issues and problems of most of the people within their respective territories and take care of their basic needs. As a result, the people’s belief in the state evaporated and the focus shifted from the government to governance. Since then, policymakers in the developed world have been focusing on improving governance at local, regional, national and international levels to address the maladies and needs of the populace.
It is important to note that political parties and politicians could not come up with a new approach to governance because they themselves have been retrospective in their approach. Whether it were the Sharifs or the Bhuttos or now Prime Minister Imran Khan, all lived in the past. The Sharifs and the Bhuttos have been pointing time and again to the shady “achievements” of their governments in the past whereas PM Khan has been cacophonic in his repeated mentioning of the financial corruption of the past ruling families. According to the new governance approach, what matters is the system and structure of the governing apparatus and to what extent it has been able to address the demands of the people and solve their issues. The present government of Prime Minister Khan has completely glossed over this aspect of governance. There is no doubt that history is important and without addressing the historical wrongs one cannot make real progress. However, the state and its government are finding themselves incapacitated to cleanse the Augean stables. Again, this is due to the focus on the traditional approach of governance that is fundamentally the cause of the state functionaries’ lack of capacity.
The issues of Pakistani society or, for that matter, any other society in the contemporary era, they need a holistic, multijurisdictional and networked approach. For instance, the issue of unemployment among young males is a serious challenge. The problem is that it cannot be addressed by the ministry of finance and economic affairs in an isolated manner. Rather the education, social welfare, youth affairs, economic affairs and foreign ministries, governments at the local, regional, national and international level as well as civil society and private sectors all have to work together in a coordinated manner to address the issue of unemployment in Pakistan. The networking to address issues and take care of the needs of the population is the heart of the approach of the new governance. As the new governance approach is non-hierarchical, unlike the conventional approach to governance, our ruling politicians and civilian bureaucrats, steeped in the old thinking and behaviours of believing in the chain of command and authority, could not adopt the new governance approach. Resultantly, the issues and problems, which need shunning of the conventional ways of governance, could not be addressed. Thus, we are seeing a surge and multiplication of social issues and problems.
It is important to note that international governance networks and organisations, including both inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as donor agencies, have used the aid as a tool to make the Pakistani government and ministries adopt the new governance model of networking. They have done it by establishing Strategic Support Units or Independent Monitoring Units and the likes in many federal and provincial ministries and departments. Although the governance units have a lot of talent in the shape of many experts of the relevant fields, including economics, sociology, politics, governance, policy etc, yet they have not been able to make a big difference. The reason is that the shots are called by Pakistani civilian bureaucrats, who could not come out of their traditional thinking and ways of doing things. The civil servants are not ready to listen to the expert opinion of the researchers and analysts at the SSUs and IMUs, leaving their efforts inconsequential. There is also a personal interest of the civil servants in shunning the new governance models: they have to share their authority and power with other stakeholders. The shareholders include the private sector, not-for-profit voluntary organisations and the market. This is not at all acceptable to the ruling politicians and civilian bureaucrats. But society needs the sharing of power among state functionaries, civil society and the private sector to meaningfully see their issues addressed.
As long as the state and its functionaries do not realise that the issues and maladies as well as the needs of society are such that they could not address them single-handedly and that whatever they may do they would remain incapacitated to find their solutions, the adoption of the new governance approach would be inevitable. Thus, it is now up to the intelligentsia, whether in academia or journalism, the two traditional areas where they are found, to lead the way. Experts and intellectuals would have to make the ruling and potentially ruling politicians as well as civilian bureaucrats realise that the world has changed and the approach to governance has also changed. The government is not the name of spending on luxurious offices and sophisticated dialogue in official meetings but solutions of the problems of the population and taking care of their needs. While the ruling and potentially ruling politicians could be made to realize, it is quite difficult to make the civilian bureaucrats realize and ask them to mend their ways. The only way the civil servants could be made to follow the ruling politicians is by changing the political system, which could produce real leaders.