Governance is a mechanism to exercise executive authority. Since power can be exercised in varying ways, the World Bank defines governance as “a manner in which power is exercised in the management of social, political, and economic resources of the country.” Good governance lies at the heart of sustainable development, and contributes in improving the overall life standards of the citizens of a country and subsequently, upgrading its international standing. However, it is unfortunate that personalities took precedence over institutions in Pakistan and ensuring good governance has never been a matter of serious deliberation in our country.
Since its inception, Pakistan has been embroiled in mounting problems and deepening crisis of governance. Those crisis not only compounded the problems of a nascent state but also backtracked the discourse of governance, resulting in a faltering economy, rising inflation, and deepening inequality. It can be argued that good governance is a dream gone sour in Pakistan. However, gloom is a useless emotion, and every cloud has a silver lining. These problems can be overcome, and good governance can be ensured through an across-the-board application of the rule of law, introducing strict and transparent mechanism of accountability, and an empowered framework of institution building.
The United Nations (UN) and other international bodies such as the World Bank, and many non-governmental organizations are striving hard to achieve sustainable development through good governance. According to the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan good governance “is ensuring respect for human rights, promoting transparency and the rule of law, strengthening democracy and capacity building in public administration.” For its implementation, the UN has set eight principles of good governance: participation, rule of law, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, equity, inclusiveness, effectiveness, and governmental efficiency.
The World Bank has also identified some characteristics or indicators of good governance: accountability, absence of violence, protection and respect for human rights, existence of qualitative regulatory bodies, rule of law, and absence of corruption. These indicators are used to gauge the quality of governance in countries in question.
The roots of mis-governance are not new and can be traced back to the colonial era. When Pakistan shook off the shackles of colonialism, it inherited a plethora of problems, ranging from non-payment of funds by India, an unmanageable refugee influx, to war with India and a looming threat from Afghanistan. All of that diverted the focus of the leadership to security from governance and nation building. Consequently, it ended up where we stand today.
A leadership crisis also contributed to mis-governance in Pakistan. Unlike India, where Jawahar Lal Nehru worked until 1964, Mohammad Ali Jinnah did not live long to push Pakistan towards a path of prosperity. It deprived Pakistan of a much-needed steadying hand at the helm. Under-performing civilians gave an excuse to the military brass to take over and run the country. Every martial law brought with it new challenges for successive governments; ultimately, martial laws also contributed to mis-governance.
Pervasive corruption has also hurt and haunted Pakistan’s governance narrative. Every successive government talked a lot but walked a little to eradicate corruption from the country. Corruption is one of the stumbling blocks in the way of Pakistan to ensure good governance. It is a curse that must be eliminated if Pakistan is to gain prosperity. Therefore, lawmakers should not only make rules, but they should also ensure practicability of those laws. In this way, Pakistan can attain the larger-than-life goal of good governance.
Accountability can be used as a tool not only to ensure good governance but to improve and upgrade the international standing of the country. Therefore, it is important that accountability should be transparent and across the board, and it must not smell of a political vendetta or witch hunting. In this manner, the country can combat the menace of mis-governance effectively.
Media has never truly enjoyed complete freedom, and it has always been divided. Some sections of media played their due role in seeking good governance, while others turned a blind eye and deaf ears to the genuine issues of people, and danced to the tunes of the powerful elite, proving to be an obstacle rather than a tool. Media can also be used to spread information and awareness, and it must play its due role in improving governance.
Governance is a complex issue, and it involves more than one stakeholder. Good governance can only be ensured when every stakeholder plays their due role. Institutions and the people of the country should know their responsibility and do their part to ensure good governance. Otherwise, it will be useless to cry over spilt milk.