Governance Crisis in Pakistan: Need for Reforms and Institutional Building


Governance Crisis in Pakistan: Need for Reforms and Institutional Building Essay | CSS 2016 Solved Essays | CSS Solved Essays | Essays by Sir Syed Kazim Ali | CSS Essays | PMS Essays | Essays by Sir Syed Kazim Ali

Rimsha Mureed has attempted this essay on the given pattern, which Sir Syed Kazim Ali teaches his students, who have consistently been qualifying their CSS and PMS essays. The essay is uploaded to help other competitive aspirants learn and practice how to write a comprehensive outline; how to write bullets in an outline; how to write the introductory paragraph; how to connect sentences and paragraphs; how to write a topic sentence; how to put evidence within the paragraphs.

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1- Introduction
2- What is meant by the governance crisis?
3- Good governance and its eight characteristics prescribed by United Nations
4- Understanding the governance situation in Pakistan

  • ✓ Corruption has become the order of the day, costing billions of dollars to the economy.
    Evidence: Pakistan’s Corruption Perception Index ranking at 124 out of 180 countries
  • ✓ The state has failed to deliver the necessities of life owing to bad governance.
    Evidence: Pakistan is 138th in the overall Prosperity Index on the Legatum Prosperity Index 
  • Insufficient and weak educational and health infrastructure have prevailed because of bad governance
    Evidence: According to the Legatum Prosperity Index, Pakistan is ain130th position in the health sector and 143rd in the education
  • ✓ State-run enterprises are suffering from catastrophic losses because of mismanagement and bad governance
    Evidence: According to Finance Ministry Report, the particular enterprise caused a loss of more than 287 bn rupees in 2021
  • ✓ The poor tax-to-GDP ratio owing to the unholy alliance between revenue officials and tax evaders has further added fuel to the fire
    Evidence: Pakistan’s Tax to GDP ratio declined to 9.2 per cent from 10.4 in 2021-2022 compared to 2020

5- What are the major causes behind Pakistan’s sorry state of governance?

  • ✓ Absence of the rule of law and accountability 
    Evidence: According to Voice and Accountability captures perceptions, Pakistan is at 25.12 per cent in accountability, depicting the dismal condition. 
  • ✓ Democratic instability and political polarization 
    Evidence: Pakistan ranked 104th among 167 nations on Democracy Index 2021
  • ✓ Lack of institutional revenue lowering the tax base
    Evidence: Pakistan’s tax-to-GDP ratio declines compared to 2020
  • ✓ Weak and pliant judiciary 
    Evidence: The judicial system of Pakistan is ” nothing but a ploy to frighten”, said Pakistani lawyer and politician Aitzaz Ahsan.
  • ✓ Dysfunctional institutions and weak institutional norms
    Evidence: Nepotism and favouritism have eroded the foundations of institutional setup in Pakistan
  • ✓ The politicization of civil services and other sectors because of unqualified political Appointees 
    Evidence: Civil services reforms are inevitable, as stressed by Dr Ishrat Hussain.
  • ✓ Lack of direction and poor policy decisions
    Evidence: Vested interests, lack of will, and poor policy decisions have led the country towards bad governance, said Dr Umbreen Javed, chairperson Political Science department at Punjab University. 

6- How can the institutions be built and reformed to solve the governance crisis in Pakistan?

  • ✓ To ensure the rule of law and good accountability process in Pakistan 
  • ✓ To enhance the efficiency and independence of the judiciary through judicial reforms
  • ✓ To make practical, realistic, and goal-oriented policies 
  • ✓ To make the recruitment process in public institutions more transparent and merit oriented 
  • ✓ To ensure the principle of separation of power, to some extent, in the best interest of both bureaucrats or officials and politicians
  • ✓ To deal with pitfalls in major institutions like FIA, NAB, and police departments by introducing reforms
  • ✓ To strengthen the democratic norms of the country 

7- Critical analysis
8- Conclusion 

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The concept of governance is though not new; it is as old as human civilization. Governance refers to regulating institutions, managing resources, and implementing laws to create desirable circumstances for the nation’s development. The term good governance has acquired prominence in the context of the revitalization of democratic institutions; to ensure participatory democracy and human development and to attain the goals of globalization. The United Nations has prescribed core elements of good governance, including transparency, accountability, absence of corruption, etc. that are crucial for efficient state machinery. Unfortunately, governance has always been fraught with many problems in Pakistan, making the nation remain bogged down in a quagmire of socioeconomic difficulties. The existence of massive corruption, weak accountability, and poor law and order conditions make ample evidence of poor governance in the country. As a matter of fact, Pakistan’s pathetic bureaucratic machinery and bad decision-making by myopic and ineligible politicians in the upper echelons of power have compounded the dilemma of bad governance, making the people languish in apocalyptic circumstances in the country. It is the need of the hour to reverse the matter; otherwise, it will further worsen the country’s state. A strong accountability mechanism across the board, the rule of law, adherence to democratic norms, institutional restructuring, and setup is inevitable. This essay comprehensively talks about the crisis of good governance in Pakistan. It also sheds light on the need for reforms and institutional rebuilding in this regard.

“Governance” is vividly defined as managing and governing public affairs. Contrastingly, governance crises emerge in the shape of mismanaging all the affairs relating to the public. Governance crises exist when the economy is not working well; political turmoil, poor accountability, lack of transparency and political participation, and absence of local government and privatization. In addition, the disturbed civil-military relations over the past several decades have proved damaging to the democratic health of the country. All issues have deep roots, from economy to politics and society to religion.

When the administration is carried out in the best favour of the public, it is considered good governance. However, it is not as simple. The United Nations puts up some key indicators for good governance: transparency, participation, accountability, inclusiveness, the rule of law, responsiveness, consensus, and governmental efficiency viz-a-viz service delivery. Governance, therefore, means governing public affairs in a better way. Unfortunately, the spectrum is different in the case of Pakistan. Since its inception, the country has been striving hard to improve the quality of governance as the quality of lives of citizens directly links with it. 

In developed countries, where the governance structure is well established and responsible for citizens’ demands, the living standards of the citizens are far better than that of developing countries, where the governance structure is weak and poor. Unfortunately, Pakistan is also among the countries with widespread governance crises. Here is a glimpse of the current governance state of the country.

To begin with, without good governance, corruption has become the order of the day, costing billions of rupees to the economy. A fragile economy like Pakistan has to bear the leakage of around Rs. 14 billion daily in corruption. One cannot get one’s legitimate work done without bribing government officials. For instance, one who has never sat in the driving seat of a car can get a driving license just by greasing the palms of a relevant officer. Moreover, according to Pakistan’s Corruption Perception Index, the country’s ranking is 124 out of 180 countries, which is disappointing.

Besides, the state has failed to deliver the necessities of life because of governance rises. It is unable to generate enough employment opportunities to absorb the emerging workforce. Currently, the unemployment ratio in Pakistan is around 7 per cent. The ever-increasing poverty ratio is the consequence of unemployed youth. Brigades of unemployed youth and poverty-stricken citizens are a threat to the peace and security of the country. Additionally, at the Legatum Prosperity Index, Pakistan is at the position of 138. It demonstrates the sorry state of governance in the country even more.

Moreover, because of bad governance, the health and educational structure of the country has deteriorated. According to the Legatum Prosperity Index, Pakistan is in the 130th position in the health sector and 143rd in education. It is far back from regional partners; the same report gave 111 and 118 positions to India, respectively. Even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are performing well compared to Pakistan. This is a serious concern for the country because health and education are the people’s basic needs and require a good setup for the welfare of all. 

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In the same manner, state-run enterprises are suffering from a giant loss. According to a finance ministry report, the selected enterprises, which together employed 450,000 people and generated revenues of Rs4tr in FY2019 against the book value of Rs19tr of their assets, had collectively suffered hefty net losses of Rs143bn. A year before, their combined losses stood at a whopping Rs287bn. The losses of the top 10 loss-making SOEs like PIA, Pakistan Railways, power companies, and the National Highway Authority account for around 90pc of the total losses each year. While there is no doubt that some of these companies need to be liquidated and others sold to the private sector, the decision to retain certain enterprises and restructure them in the public sector should be supported conditionally.

Lastly, the tax-to-GDP ratio exacerbates the already burning situation. The ratio in Pakistan is 9%, the lowest in the region. India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have improved the governance structure of their tax departments. There are many reasons behind this low figure in Pakistan. First, there is an unholy alliance between tax evaders and tax collectors. Second, the tax collection system is outdated. Lastly, tax collectors are not equipped with modern techniques and strategies.

Having mentioned the current governance situation in Pakistan, it is pertinent to disclose the causes behind the crisis. After all, knowing the causes of a problem is the first step toward finding the solutions.

First, the absence of the rule of law and accountability are the foremost reasons behind the sorry state of governance in the country. In its absence, the real potential of a country cannot be achieved; institutions collapse, and criminals run amok. According to Voice and Accountability captures perceptions, Pakistan is at 25.12 per cent in accountability, depicting the dismal condition. 

Second, the cause of bad governance in the country is the lack of democratic practices and political polarization. Pakistan ranked 104th among 167 nations on Democracy Index 2021. Moreover, the fact that less than 5% of the country’s population consists of industrialists, landlords, and people in business, but their presence in assemblies is more than 95% shows how a certain class of the society has a monopoly over the state’s institutions, resources, and authorities. This accumulation of affluence class in the corridors of power is needed to be liquefied to protect democracy in the country.

Third, the lack of institutional revenue is one of the major reasons behind the crisis of good governance. Pakistan’s Tax to GDP ratio declined to 9.2 per cent from 10.4 in 2021-2022 compared to 2020. This shows a gloomy picture of the country’s revenue state. Without adequate revenue generation, it became difficult for the concerned people to serve them, people. Institutions went for the decline, which further made the situation worse.

Fourth, the weak and pliant judiciary makes it difficult for people to exercise their legal rights. Undoubtedly, a strong and independent judiciary can change the fate of a nation. Moreover, any outer influence, especially from politicians, certainly destroys the decorum of the institute. As it was aptly said by Aung San, Burmese politician, diplomat, author, and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate,” the judiciary must be strengthened and released from political interference”. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the fact is different. All the people from the power corridors misuse their authority. Pakistani lawyer and politician Aitzaz Ahsan said that The judicial system of Pakistan is “nothing but a ploy to frighten”.

Fifth, dysfunctional institutions and weak institutional norms are two of the major reasons behind the governance crisis in Pakistan. These weak norms gave space to nepotism and favouritism that weakened the capacity of employers to deliver their mandated tasks. The government jobs are allotted to the kiths and kins of people with influence. Incompetent and insensitive people are sitting at the helm of the affairs. They pursued corruption and used federalism as a shield. This weak, dysfunctional, and outdated system led to the governance crisis. 

Sixth, the politicization of civil services and other sectors because of unqualified political appointees added fuel to the fire. At the time of Independence, undoubtedly, bureau-militia elites ran the country because they consisted of competent persons. On the other hand, politicians were and still are amateur and wealthy elites. They lack knowledge and have to depend upon others. This dependence makes the working of institutions poor. Owing to this situation, Dr Ishrat Hussain suggested civil services reforms that are the need of the hour.

Finally, among other ills of the governance crisis, lack of direction and poor policy decisions is quite mentionable. Vested interests, lack of will, and poor policy decisions have led the country towards bad governance, said Dr Umbreen Javed, chairperson Political Science department at Punjab University.

To improve the governance of the country, the root causes mentioned above need to be addressed. Here are some of the effective suggestions to come out of the governance crisis in the country.

First of all, to ensure the rule of law is mandatory. The rule of law is the political philosophy that all citizens and institutions within a country, state, or community are accountable to the same laws, including lawmakers and leaders. Caroline Kennedy aptly said, “the Rule of law is the bedrock of democracy“. It means even democracy is incomplete without the rule of law in a country. And with limping democracy, the welfare of the state is merely a daydream.

Likewise, to achieve a state of good governance, an independent and efficient judicial system is inevitable. Pakistan, by contrast, is lagging behind in strengthening its important pillar of the state. An effective justice system, undoubtedly, is a fundamental right of citizens, as well as underpinning business confidence, job creation, and economic growth. A good justice system, in short, is the epicentre of a country’s peace, progress, and stability. After all, social activist Bryan Stevenson aptly said:

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth but instead is justice.”

Bryan Stevenson

Besides, it is high time to realize that the country is crying for effective, practical, and fruitful policies. A lot of red-tapisms had already made the situation tumultuous. Seventy-five years have passed, but the country is still at risk of collapse just because of inappropriate governance decisions. Only well-defined policies can prop the country up; otherwise, good governance would be merely a fantasy for the country. 

Moreover, one of the effective suggestions would be to improve and strengthen the recruitment process. A huge army of youth is facing unemployment, while on their side, the officeholders are recruiting their kiths and kins. It connotes that favouritism and nepotism have made their deep roots prevail in the system. To add fuel to the fire, speaking up for one’s rights has become a cry in the wilderness. It is evident from history that no nation has ever made progress without a transparent merit system. It is high time to realize the fact and to take practical and effective steps. 

In the same manner, the separation between institutions is required. How can an institute perform well under the influence of external authority? It merely shows the situation of a teeter who does not know what to do. To whom obey and to who disobey. Thus, a religious distance is crucial for the best interest of institutional work. Especially the influence of politicians in bureaucracy should be curtailed. Likewise, the real purpose of bureaucrats must be to serve the country instead of the ruling party. In the words of the founding father, while addressing civil officers in Peshawar in April 1948: 

You should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician. If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan, you must not fall victim to any pressure but do your duty as SERVANTS of the PEOPLE and the state, fearlessly and honestly.” 

Quaid-E-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Furthermore, institutional rebuilding is the need of the hour. The performance of the Federal Investigation Agency, police departments, and the National Accountability Bureau is quite unsatisfactory. And the performance of these institutions has deteriorated significantly because of the politicization of the selection, posting, transfer, and promotions process. To enhance their professionalism, they must be provided competent human resources and adequate financial resources for training, equipment, mobility, accommodation, and welfare with accountability.

Last but not least, the democratic norms of the country must be strengthened because a country faces many difficulties in climbing up the stairs of progress without it. Likewise, good governance is directly related to democracy. Democracy embodies responsive and responsible governance, the rule of law, human rights, civic participation and peaceful power transfers through electoral processes. Each of these underpins a peaceful and stable society. Likewise, the promotion of good governance goes beyond the government sector and includes all relevant actors from the private sector and society. Thus, it can be said that both are necessary for the welfare of a nation.

In a critical diagnosis,  the good governance crisis has badly affected Pakistan’s socio-economic and political progress. Weak governance resulted in many social evils, such as institutional corruption, nepotism, lack of transparency, favouritism, bureaucratic incompetence and poor health facilities. It is also a reason for economic instability that may affect national defence and internal security and cause economic and social disorder in society. Unfortunately, kleptocracy flourished in the last decade instead of democracy in Pakistan, wherein corrupt ruling elite corrupted the state institutions through key appointments of their cronies who worked for their masters rather in the interest of the state and its institutions. Political instability suits the corrupt elite to jam accountability and blackmail the state institutions so that accountability and economic growth can’t work together. The institutions desperately need rebuilding and restructuring if good governance is desired. 

To conclude, governance in Pakistan can only be improved by measured reforms and meaningful institutional building. The governance crisis in the country is so widespread that no institution tasked with public service delivery is functioning optimally. The institutions are on the verge of collapsing; thugs are running law enforcement agencies, and criminals operate unbridled. After analyzing the causes of this abysmal state of affairs and owing to the gravity of the crisis, reforms are suggested, which would pay off in a short period. For good sustainable governance, core institutions of the state should be strengthened; otherwise, the agenda of governance improvement will remain elusive. 

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