De­con­struct­ing the evil 'sys­tem': Who are the cor­rupt?

The Financial Daily - - NATIONAL - Ad­nan Ra­sool It's the bu­reau­cracy, stupid

The govt must sat­isfy the cor­rupt elites to sur­vive.........

Ow­ing to the very de­sign of this en­tire sys­tem, the elites get to dic­tate the rules of the game.

In my last ar­ti­cle, I fo­cused on bust­ing the myth of the 'feu­dal' be­ing the root of all evil, by pre­sent­ing some ground re­al­i­ties of how the coun­try's real 'elites' ex­ploit the sys­tem to pro­tect their in­ter­ests.

This ar­ti­cle presents a more ex­pan­sive ex­pla­na­tion of how these elites work the sys­tem and what the sys­tem re­ally look like.

The preva­lent be­lief is that there are two kinds of gov­ern­ments that have ruled Pak­istan: mil­i­tary and civil­ian politi­cians. This is merely an il­lu­sion of what has re­ally been go­ing on.

Thing is, the mil­i­tary and the politi­cians are the faces of the oper­a­tion. While it is true that there have al­ways been two faces of govern­ment in Pak­istan since its in­de­pen­dence, there has al­ways been just one sin­gle oper­a­tion. And to un­der­stand the oper­a­tion, it is cru­cial to un­der­stand how the govern­ment func­tions.

The govern­ment is made up of three per­ma­nent and one ro­tat­ing part. The ro­tat­ing part is the face of the govern­ment i. e. politi­cians, while the three per­ma­nent por­tions are the bu­reau­cracy, the mil­i­tary and the ju­di­ciary. Bu­reau­cracy: The bu­reau­cracy is the sin­gle most im­por­tant arm of the govern­ment, and the most in­flu­en­tial one. As they work in the back­drop, they avoid the blame for the blun­ders while tak­ing credit for the suc­cesses. As they are the im­ple­menters of govern­ment pro­grammes, they have a lot more sway then peo­ple think they do. They are the ones who de­sign and plan pub­lic re­lief pro­grammes which even­tu­ally get rec­om­mended to politi­cians, who then ap­prove or dis­ap­prove them.

The­o­ret­i­cally speak­ing, bu­reau­crats are sup­posed to be ex­perts on is­sues, but that is no longer the re­al­ity. The grow­ing hold of DMG (Dis­trict Man­age­ment Group) over the work­ing of all tiers of bu­reau­cracy has cre­ated a sit­u­a­tion where non-ex­pert bu­reau­crats have more sway than they should. But since they are work­ing in the back­ground, no one raises an is­sue. Ad­di­tion­ally, as they can­not be fired from their jobs, they keep sur­viv­ing un­chal­lenged, more than any other arm of the govern­ment.

The worst that can hap­pen to bu­reau­crats is to be sus­pended or made in to OSDs. But quite cru­cially, the bu­reau­cracy has an in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory i.e. they know how things work in Pak­istan, so they sim­ply can­not be alien­ated. This is why all at­tempts at civil ser­vice re­form get shot down as soon as they are started. Ju­di­ciary: Ju­di­ciary has gained its cur­rent level of im­por­tance only re­cently, as a di­rect re­sult of the lawyer's move­ment. Ju­di­ciary is also bu­reau­cratic in its oper­a­tions, but com­pared to the bu­reau­cracy, it is more ex­posed to the pub­lic cour­tesy its func­tion as a jus­tice de­liv­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion. Mil­i­tary: Mil­i­tary, on the other hand, has a lot more pub­lic ex­po­sure than the other two per­ma­nent arms of the govern­ment cour­tesy it be­ing a face of gov­er­nance in Pak­istan. Mil­i­tary has had to run its core oper­a­tions of se­cur­ing the bor­ders while look­ing for na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests along with en­sur­ing that the larger in­ter­ests in the sys­tem are main­tained.

Po­lit­i­cans make up only 25 per cent of the 'sys­tem'

Politi­cians are the most pub­licly ex­posed of all arms of the govern­ment. De­pen­dent on pub­lic votes for their po­si­tions, they are the least per­ma­nent ones too, and have no op­tion but to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fail­ures of the other three per­ma­nent arms of the govern­ment.

From this per­spec­tive, the pub­lic only choose 25 per cent of the govern­ment and that 25 per cent is re­spon­si­ble for the other 75 per cent that is free to act with­out tak­ing di­rect blame for most things.

Ow­ing to the very de­sign of this en­tire sys­tem, the elites get to dic­tate the rules of the game i.e. they de­ter­mine the ex­tent to which they will tol­er­ate de­vi­a­tion of any part of the sys­tem from their spe­cific in­ter­ests. So when the sys­tem comes to halt and/or is suf­fer­ing from in­ter­nal con­flict, what's ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing is that dif­fer­ent groups of elite are hav­ing a con­flict over the pro­tec­tion of their re­spec­tive in­ter­ests.

The mo­ment they sort out their con­flicts is the mo­ment all the clashing of in­sti­tu­tions comes to a halt.

Un­for­tu­nately, the way Pak­istan's pol­i­tics has grown in de­sign, the elites fight their wars through pit­ting civil and mil­i­tary lead­er­ships un­der the guise of tech­ni­cal con­flicts, while all the time, the real is­sues go undis­cussed.

The govt must sat­isfy the elites to sur­vive

The com­mon man as­sumes the pur­pose of the govern­ment to be a ser­vice de­liv­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Thing is, with­out so­cial jus­tice and equal­ity, the govern­ment's ser­vice de­liv­ery process is se­ri­ously skewed in favour of ap­peas­ing its core con­stituency for sur­vival i.e. the elites.

One must re­alise that the way our 'sys­tem' is built, the core con­stituency of any­one in power is never the gen­eral pub­lic. And the gen­eral pub­lic's anger is just aimed at 25 per cent of the govern­ment that screws them over while the per­ma­nent lynch­pins of the sys­tem stay in place re­gard­less of who the face is.

It is also cru­cial to re­alise that in this sce­nario, there are vary­ing de­grees of in­cen­tives to be dis­hon­est for each stake­holder.

For politi­cians, their skewed fo­cus on pleas­ing the elites in or­der to com­plete their demo­cratic ten­ure leaves them with low pub­lic sup­port for the next elec­tion cy­cle. This leaves them with in­cen­tive to be dis­hon­est and cor­rupt as the pun­ish­ment for do­ing so is high i.e. they will be voted out.

The ju­di­ciary, be­ing the weak­est, is still in the process of fig­ur­ing out its po­ten­tial ex­tent of in­cen­tives.

The bu­reau­cracy, on the other hand, is the one with the most in­cen­tive to be dis­hon­est and cor­rupt, as their pun­ish­ment is next to noth­ing.

So while the sys­tem lets the ones with the most in­cen­tive to be cor­rupt (bu­reau­cracy) go un­pun­ished, it is mer­ci­less to the part of the govern­ment (politi­cians) with the low­est in­cen­tive to be dis­hon­est.

Ad­di­tion­ally, it is cus­tom-built to sup­port the in­ter­ests of a few.

Un­for­tu­nately, our masses have been led to be­lieve that only a cer­tain com­po­nent (25 per cent) of the govern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the doom and gloom. To add in­sult to in­jury, the demo­cratic gov­ern­ments have to ask the bu­reau­crats to be the judge of the per­for­mance and ef­fec­tive­ness of politi­cians.

The pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle is not to paint an even gloomier pic­ture of re­al­ity than we are used to see­ing, it is rather to help ex­plain how the govern­ment re­ally op­er­ates, and how the masses keep get­ting played with­out know­ing who to ac­tu­ally blame.Cour­tesy: Dawn.

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