It is almost impossible to erase institutional memory. Set and deep-rooted cultural changes in institutions are impossible. The colonial institutions that we inherited have continued to exercise the built-in hatred for the subjects. Those officers who opted to serve the first Islamic Republic understood their role but unfortunately once they were gone, the old ways returned.
In the USA the Founding Fathers totally dismantled the structures built by the colonists. All files were burnt, uniforms and medals stripped, laws were rewritten with freedom in mind. Even the right to bear arms was granted which is currently being debated to contain the recent shooting incidents. Ownership of state land was transferred to the people under the ‘Law of Homestead’. Any citizen could lay claim on one square mile of unclaimed state land under this law. Immigrants on covered horse-driven carriages travelled West in search of greener pastures and became prosperous landowners.
The elected government of Imran Khan almost succeeded in convicting the corrupt politicians after over three years of exhaustive investigations and legal delays when it was decided to save them to keep them in the arena as checkmates. If the current Azadi Movement succeeds, which is most probable, it must be followed by massive ‘Institutional Rebuilding’ to ensure continuity of freedom and People’s Power. Otherwise the poor donkey will remain in the shade. Beating the proverbial dead horse cannot and will not produce results
From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean the entire country was developed by people through facilitation of the state.
President Ronald Reagan believed, “No government is the best government”. In other words, the state was there to serve not to rule as is the case in the land of the pure. In over 200 years the US constitution has been amended less then 20 times while in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan it has not just been amended in a short span many times more but also disfigured without due legislative process. The draconian Government of India Acts prevail over the constituitional boundaries.
Unlike institutions, it is widely believed that muscles have no memory. Powerful people with ‘muscle’ embark on ambitious plans with no lessons learnt and eventually end up dealing with institutions that are full of sickness and hatred. It is a perfect blend of sick institutions with colonial memories and individuals with ‘muscles’ only.
I had the opportunity of interacting with Lt Gen Tanvir Naqvi who was heading the National Reconstruction Bureau under Gen Pervez Musharraf, the fourth usurper. He was very upbeat about the devolution plan he had formulated. I asked him a simple question about its implementation. His answer surprised me. “The bureaucracy will be tasked to implement it, moreover I have nothing to do with the implementation, the CEO is responsible for it “.
In the end institutional memory prevailed over the might of the ‘muscle’. It was a total disaster from which the administrative set-up has not recovered yet. In Punjabi they say, ‘Khoti Rahi Borh Thhalay‘ ( The donkey remained under the tree ). It is time to move the donkey out of the shade for it to experience light.
Colonial Institutions designed and built on the foundations of ‘People Hatred’ cannot spread love or empathy. Executive abuse is the order of the day. For relief the public is forced to approach the courts which are overloaded and equally sluggish with an unending backlog of cases. The Ombudsman’s office is again manned by retired bureaucrats who are not trained to provide relief. However the Information Commissions ‘are effective in digging out the much needed information, they cannot correct maladministration.
There are several classic cases to report. When my term ended as Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation in August 2005, I went for a farewell call on the Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology. In his parting words he said, “You did a lot of good work but never heeded our requests.”
My reply was, “I had a choice to either deliver or act on your requests.” I was 52 years old then, at the peak of my professional innings. In order to get their way, I was replaced by a 74-year-old retired scientist who remained obedient till the end. The Ministry took control of the Foundation land reserved for building the Science Centre. In its place a monstrosity was built which now houses the bureaucrats who do not even understand the difference between science and technology.
The buildings on Lahore’s Mall Road are protected under a Historic Buildings Act passed by Parliament. The Lahore High Court complex is on the top of the list followed by the GPO (General Post Office). In the 1990s, Their Lordships decided to rebuild a portion of the court premises in violation of the act. There was public outcry. As I knew the Judge who was incharge of the renovation I decided to approach him. I was surpised by his thinking ” It is our building, we know what needs to be done.” Finally, the Architects Association, led by the late Khawaja Zaheeruddin, a senior architect, started street protests to preserve the historic building of the city. There were loud chants of “It’s our heritage”. Finally the Lordships were forced to back off.
A similar resistance was exhibited against the Orange Train roject’. The management committee of the ‘Chief’s College’ now called Aitchison College decided to appoint an Aitchisonian as the Principal. During one of my meetings with him, I requested him to replace the turbans in the uniform with Jinnah caps. He said, “No, it’s our tradition” which remains unchanged till today. The independence on 14 August 1947 had no impact on his thinking.
After the enactment of the 1973 Constitution, ‘Institutional Restructuring’ had started by the Bhutto regime when the ‘Empire’ decided to strike back in 1977 to reverse all the democratic gains.
The elected government of Imran Khan almost succeeded in convicting the corrupt politicians after over three years of exhaustive investigations and legal delays when it was decided to save them to keep them in the arena as checkmates. If the current Azadi Movement succeeds, which is most probable, it must be followed by massive ‘Institutional Rebuilding’ to ensure continuity of freedom and People’s Power. Otherwise the poor donkey will remain in the shade. Beating the proverbial dead horse cannot and will not produce results.