It’s all about state governance

The gaps in the governance of state affairs have escalated to a level which is alarming and pose a significant threat to national interests.

Be it nation’s foreign policy, economic policy, energy policy, internal and external security of the nation, there are governance gaps in all segments a lethal combination of lack of competence to manage state affair, creditability, conduct and deeds of state managers, response time to confront and address national issues, integrity of political leadership and fair business practices and preference of vested interests over national interests.

The frustration in this regard is now widely finding its resonance in media and establishment. The low, if not the lowest, in this regard occurred when the military leadership, headed by General Raheel Sharif, sat across the Federal Minister of Finance, Federal Minister of Water and Power and the Advisors on foreign affairs, at an unprecedented meeting held last week at General Head Quarter (GHQ).

The subjects reportedly discussed were largely the ones falling within the exclusive domain of the civilian government. But, frustrated with the pathetically lukewarm response of the government to challenges, the men in khaki opted to step in.

Pakistan today is confronted with external and internal threats as never before and both are real. Laid back attitude and business as usual, in these testing times, is not an option to be tolerated by the stakeholders who matter.

Global politics and economic dynamics are changing while new global and regional power sharing and economic dominance alignments are being firmed up among nations. Of importance to Pakistan is how countries at its borders are aligning themselves, notably, India, Iran and Afghanistan.

On the diplomatic front, Pakistan has lost out much. India, since 2008, has firmly aligned itself with the US; for which, it has reaped much advantages, significantly the civilian nuclear deal, strategic defence and economic alignment with the US. With the backing of the US, it seeks to secure Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) membership for itself.

Late last month India, Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement to speed up work on Chabahar port with road and train access to Afghanistan. India is the prime mover of this project.

Also, India is helping Afghanistan build 12 hydropower projects, with a capacity to generate 1,177MW of electricity to be built on the river Kabul which will store 4.7 million acre feet of water, thereby squeezing the flow in the Kabul river reaching Pakistan. Water scarcity is a serious threat for Pakistan and needs to be effectively addressed.

India has also managed to be a preferred strategic and economic partner of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. There is nothing wrong with nations going for partnerships, but India has an agenda which could be detrimental to Pakistan’s interests and security.

The situation therefore requires an equally skilled measures from the diplomats of Pakistan. In the absence of a full-time foreign minister and a meaningful foreign policy our response is largely passive, belated and meaningless.

While Indian Prime Minister moved from one country to another to lobby for NSG membership and regional political and economic dominance, Pakistan’s advisor on foreign affairs made some last-minute telephone calls to some of the world leaders to promote country’s foreign policy objectives.

While Prime Minister Modi, in his address to a joint session of Congress pointed fingers at Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorist activities, Pakistan failed to effectively put up a case against India’s sponsored acts of terrorism in Pakistan.

No doubt, we have exemplary relations with China and Turkey on the basis of mutual interests and respect, but we need more global alignments and friends to be able to retain this relationship from a position of strength.

On the economy side, the budget 2015-16 is more of an accounting exercise of balancing revenue and expenditure. It lacks strategy and reform in relation to both revenue and expenditure.

On the energy front, the amount of electricity added to the national grid in the last three years is not transparent; it appears that no additional power could be added to the grid. In the meantime, an outlay of Rs 968 billion has been consumed in the last three years.

The real issue today is not power generation enhancement; financial and technical impediments to its evacuation and transmission to consumers, in fact, constitute the real issue. Power distribution continues to be afflicted by competence and poor governance.

The incumbent government is no doubt a significant improvement over the last government.

Today, the biggest challenge the nation is confronted with is on account of the lack of awareness of our public leaders to recognise challenges. There are some legitimate doubts about their competence and will to address them. At the moment they fall short on both accounts as the state governance lacks professionalism.

Ostrich Syndrome is when people prefer to ‘stick their heads in the sand’, much as an ostrich does, rather than accept some uncomfortable facts; it cannot be an option to be exercised in these testing times.

This state of affairs is not sustainable as challenges are so great and so real although they cannot be left unattended or unaddressed. Courage and effective delivery constitute the only available option. Business Recorder