LAHORE: Pakistan is fighting the corona virus with a lame and frightening bureaucracy that is increasingly increasing bureaucracy at all levels. Bureaucrats fear accountability even at decisions they make in good faith.
This government rightly claims that it inherited a rotten system. However, it is at least a system that can be applied and not the one that is paralyzed as we have witnessed today.
There are no defects in rules and regulations, and the main obstacles are at the implementation stage and on the interpretation of certain rules. This deficiency requires good tuning and not selective hunting for magicians.
Look at the Sunday Cheema case, which is the main force to complete Lahore Metro in a short time and under budget. He was arrested on NAB charges of fraud of several hundred million which were not proven.
Compared to that, those who took the Peshawar Rapid Transport fee more than doubled from the original estimate and still haven’t finished it untouched. In this case, we are talking about corruption of Rs20-40 billion.
In the unproven Cheema case, allegations of corruption were far less than the amount he had saved from the original costs of Metro Lahore.
These and many other similar cases have reduced the morale of hard-working bureaucrats. The government itself does not trust the bureaucracy, because it refuses to carry out illegal orders.
This is the reason that he cannot file a false case against Group Chief Editor Jang Mir Shakil Ur Rehman through the bureaucracy, and fled to the NAB and has kept him under arrest for almost two months now.
This mistrust is evident even in pandemic relief work. Troubled people do not get help announced on time because the bureaucracy is not fully involved.
In such a large relief effort, the possibility of mistakenly giving help to the wrong person cannot be ruled out. But bureaucrats who are afraid of reactions move extra cautiously in providing assistance.
It delayed the relief effort. Induction of Corona Tiger Forces has made their work more difficult, because they are expected to support the assistance recommended by tigers.
The world of bureaucracy operates under the same rules and regulations that are popular in Pakistan. The only difference is that they are responsible for their actions and do not dare to break any rules at the behest of the ruling elite.
They also enjoy the power of discretion, but in using that power they must write a reasonable reason. Accountability is the abuse of power or violation of rules or assistance that is not supposed to be given to some people and rejected to others.
There is full transparency in decisions. Bureaucrats lose their jobs and even face imprisonment if there are deviations from their duties. It is a bureaucracy that runs the government under established rules and with clear guidelines given in law to the ruling party.
In an emergency or crisis, bureaucrats use their discretionary powers in the interests of the public good. If for example certain drugs are needed during a pandemic, they will buy minimum necessities directly at retail prices from the open market and then go through lengthy procedures to fill in indents and wait days for supplies.
In the current circumstances, can a bureaucrat dare to do that? This government must relax the PEPRA rules to immediately order ventilators and other gadgets needed to ensure early delivery of relief goods.
A bureaucrat cannot do this on many things needed during an emergency and allow the public to suffer instead of facing trials when he is disliked after a few years.
No executive head of a country has the power to order someone’s arrest or harassment. Everything must be done under the ambit of the law.
In Pakistan the rulers want the bureaucracy to fix their political opponents through implicit orders.
Failure to carry out orders can result in the transfer of bureaucrats to distant areas. This power has been used by every government including incumbent.
When the authorities in power ask for help that violates the law, the bureaucrats feel free to break the rules for personal gain.
The bureaucracy is far better prepared to handle the current crisis more efficiently because almost all senior bureaucrats in their careers handled the flood and earthquake emergency that struck northern Pakistan in 2005. The magnitude of the task was enormous, but could not be handled without full bureaucratic cooperation.
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