Mohsin Naqvi, the caretaker Punjab Chief Minister, while visiting the patients whom a recent injection caused to go blind said, “Jo Meray Bas Main Hai (What is within my reach) I will do for you.” The big question is; what is within his reach? As chief executive of the largest province of the country he must know the limitless powers he enjoys. After the Chief of Army Staff, the CM Punjab is the most important position in the land of the pure. It was from this platform that Nawaz Sharif (NS) cornered Benazir Bhutto, the elected Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
As COAS, Gen Qamar Bajwa pushed for his man to occupy this coveted slot of unlimited powers. On the PM refusing, he was very upset and turned against him. The Sharif family has succeeded in monopolizing this position for several terms with disastrous consequences for the people. BB, the most popular leader of her times, was deliberately kept away from this power base, resulting in the demise of her party in Punjab. The PPP has now been reduced to a provincial political force, losing its power base in Lahore the city of its birth. In the first free and fair elections in 1970 it won big in the provincial metropolis. Bhutto desired to be buried here, the murder charge against him was also framed right here. It was the Lahore High Court that sent him to the gallows.
Personally I have interfaced with provincial bureaucracies across the board and find Punjab to be the worst while Azad Jammu and Kashmir stands out as the best when it comes to public welfare. The CM House in Punjab is located in the GOR1 where public access is controlled. No one can enter the cordoned area without permission.
The diary system is non-functional. Letters are neither acknowledged nor answered; at best the office acts as a post office that forwards complaints to the relevant departments, that too after several reminders and then passes on the replies with no questions asked. There are no reports or reviews, bureaucratic abuse is rampant, with no relief to the public. There is hardly any monitoring of vital departments. Even office hours are not kept. Building roads and underpasses is not enough. Public needs relief, not excuses. There is a lot within reach of the CM if he desires to serve instead of scoring publicity points.
Firing station masters will not fix the Railway network nor will the suspension of medical superintendents improve Healthcare system. Reforms followed by monitoring is the best way forward which is so far missing. The administrative machinery in Punjab needs lubrication and oil change to start running again as it was under Comrade Ramay, the last real CM of the province.
Keeping the Mughal traditions of ‘Darbar’, the colonists build Darbar Halls in the princely residences of the Governors of the Raj. The Governor’s House Lahore also has one such hall which is now used for seminars and meetings, but with no public contact.
I have had the opportunity of attending several functions in this beautiful wood-panelled structure but the last Darbar was perhaps held in the 1970s.
As student leaders we demanded a change of the summer vacation schedule from July-August-September to June-July-August as the weather pattern had changed with an early onset of summers. On refusal by the university administration, we marched to the Governor’s House. The gates were kept open by Mustafa Khar.
The next day we were invited to the Darbar Hall where the Vice Chancellor of Punjab University was also present. While we sat on one side of the table the VC and his team were on the opposite side with Khar Sahibb at the head. After a brief discussion in the presence of the Chancellor the schedule was changed which is still in vogue till today.
Perhaps Comrade Muhammad Hanif Ramay was the last real CM who served his province well. The CM Complaint Cell was very effective in resolving public complaints. Letters were duly acknowledged with follow-up action. Every ministry had visiting hours which had to be kept. There was free access to the Civil Secretariat.
While the CM lived in GOR 1, his office was located inside the Secretariat. Referrals to ministries were easy, and the public interest was well served. As an active artist and journalist he served the sector well. Arts Councils were built all over the province at the tehsil level. As a tribute to his services his Namaza-e-Janaza was held at the Art’s Council Complex on the Mall.
The rampant abuse of human rights and executive highhandedness in the largest province of the country calls for major review and action, not helplessness like; ” Jo Meray Bus Main Hai “.
To start with the CM and Chief Secretary (CS) should have offices in the Secretariat with free access to the public. The diary system of mail should be restored and strictly followed. Heads of department should monitor public complaints together with follow-up action till resolution. Passing the buck around does not get the job done.
As CM Mohsin Naqvi is an outsider who should side with the public and watch its interests not go along with the bureaucratic tide set by the Sharifs due to their long stints in power in the province. The interim set-up is expected to be neutral, for which complete neutrality of the administrative set-up is an essential requirement, which currently it is not. There is a famous saying; ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure’. Focus should shift towards preventive measures to avoid surprises and untoward events which are avoidable by timely action.
Firing stationmasters will not fix the Railway network nor will the suspension of medical superintendents improve the Healthcare system. Reforms followed by monitoring is the best way forward which is so far missing. The administrative machinery in Punjab needs lubrication and oil change to start running again as it was under Comrade Ramay, the last real CM of the province.