Monday, 31 July 2017

Changing myths and policies require effort for process and consultation

Raza Rumi argued recently that there are 5 myths in the Pakistani discourse that need to be put to rest. In his view these are the ‘Doctrine of Necessity,’ ‘Strategic depth,’ ‘Use of Proxies’, ‘Ummah’ and ‘China will fix all’. Raza is right. A large part of our media and intellect is discussing these myths.

I would argue that Raza’s 5 myths stem from our inability to configure proper democracy. Any democratic government with an open process of policymaking with due diligence (research and reporting through white papers and documentation), public consultation (forums with government provided information and genuine participation) and open decision-making processes (forums at all levels with proper public participation and open minutes even if with a lag), ghosts and monsters can be confronted. Simple. No decision without first, adequate public scrutiny, second documentation and consultation at all levels including the public, and finally full disclosure.

There is no democracy without these 3 steps. Democracy is not mere elections but a complete process for running government for the welfare of a a free and sovereign people.

Change is not PM whim but his leadership of a process

This is what universities and think tanks are for. And yes, the government funds them to maintain this system of scrutiny on itself.

And yes! The PM must lead the process of changing policies and myths not by hiding in foreign travel but by leading the debate in Parliament cabinet and the public domain. He must use the civil service to research and prepare policies that are discussed in the public domain and in the cabinet. His word is not a command but a direction to be examined.

The civil military divide that so haunts out thinkers (who need to read a few primers in democracy) can also be handled in this open process of consultation. And yes, the army should be consulted and not treated like a subordinate department. In fact, no department should be a subordinate department. The job of the PM is to lead a consultation and not treat all as a subordinate.

Proper democratic processes are there to make consensus and democracy is about achieving consensuses. The term Prime Minister historically means first among ministers with the right to chair the cabinet. Even the Supreme court has noted that the decision-making power lies with the cabinet and not the PM.

Let me also mention an obsession of our intellectuals: foreign policy (4 out 5 of Raza’s myths are foreign policy). Yet I find no foreign policy documents related to strategic depth and our role in the Ummah put out by the government. Where are the discussions on this? Where are the speeches and thoughts on this? Not mere pouting by children and leaks like in Dawn leaks.

We all hear of Nawaz Sharif wanting better ties with India but has anyone seen a government document defining the possibilities for the new relationship? Was that ever taken up in the cabinet? Was that ever discussed in the National Security Council? Can we see the minutes? Why does the PM and the FM not give us a white paper.

Contrary to popular intellectual opinion, PM is not elected to rule. Everything that he wants cannot be policy. The system is operating in perpetuity and should. Each ruler has no right to stop the work that was begun by the preceding government and change all polices inherited. The election only gives them the right to alter policy directions after considerable consultation and due process.

Whimsical government ended with the renaissance. Now we have continuity in policy which is tweaked and reformed through clear due process which our democrats hate.

Don’t derail the system but do let us talk of reform

While Raza talk of myths, let us also talk of the major omission--what we don’t discuss.

All discussion of reform is stifled by the intellectual/senior analyst class by yelling ‘don’t derail the system.’ Any talk of reform is thought to be anti-democracy.

The expectation that somehow good democracy would happen after dynasties have run their course is expensive. Several generations will lose many opportunities before this happens. And as we have seen these politicians will do all in their power to strengthen their undemocratic system. They neither have the learning nor the statesmanship to seek better democracy. We have seen they will further foul up the system to make room for their family democracy. Will they allow reform to make true democracy happen?

We must not only talk of reform but agitate for it shout for it if we want a serious democracy that will save our state and society. Raise your voice for reform so that they are forced to change this system.

A large number of issues must be discussed when it comes to reform. Here is a sampling.

Why don’t we experiment with elections (proportional, ranked choice, multi round) that will produce better results?
Why don’t we have term limits?
Why don’t we rule out families offering too many candidates?
Why don’t we define parties better?
Why don’t we totally separate the election commission from the executive?
Should independent local governments not exist? With different election cycles?
Should we not have more equal sized provinces for a better democracy?
Why don’t we ban appointments for judges after retirement?
Why is the civil service not independent? Why is the civil service not reformed for professionalization with open entry?
Should there be an open transparent process to appoint people to key positions and taken out of the hands of the PM.
The PM should not have the power to transfer anybody. That is not part of representation.
There should be limits on the PMs ability to change budgets, engage in arbitrary expenditures, and give plots, perks and benefits to favorites.
We must ensure due process is followed.
Why don’t we make parliamentary attendance compulsory?
Why is cabinet meeting not made compulsory?
Why are minutes of most meetings not made available even if it is with a delay?
Changes in policy must be clearly planned, investigated and consulted.
Projects must be whetted, investigated and made public.
Why don’t we set up watchdogs like the CBO?

The conversation must be on change to push politicians

The family democrats with arbitrary power love the conversation that protects them from change. Should we keep the conversation on foreign policy and keep blaming the army to let them consolidate their arbitrary, lazy and wasteful rule? This is folly.

Reform will not happen if we don’t push them to make it.  It is all right to wish for democracy but then let us get proper democracy and not some deformed variety that sneaks in dynasties from the back door to give them excessive arbitrary power without checks and balances or due process.

A reform discussion does not hurt democracy. Instead it nurtures it. It is the bad kind of reform that these politicians have done to consolidate arbitrary power that destabilizes the system. Let us not blame ghosts and monsters for this; our politicians repeatedly want to kill checks and balances and due process for personal benefits.

The system must be reformed for us to get a better crop of politicians who would want to develop democracy and truly represent people and not their dynasties. And no, the system is not derailed by talk of reform or a reform movement. On the contrary, the current trend to strengthens elected dynasties is stifling democracy.

And remember democracy is not just a bad election. It has to be framed to allow elections to deliver good government responsive to the needs to people.







Saturday, 29 July 2017

Really! Who does need a prime minister? another one by Amer Durrani

In fact, do we even need a cabinet? Or, an assembly? Note that I am not saying, if we need a government. Coming back to these “political folk”! All they seem to be investing their nights and days in, is their own survival. Not in the survival of Pakistan. That be damned! Interesting how pressing matters and decisions go on a back burner. One day we need to have decisions yesterday and the next day we can wait for days. Politicians, well almost all of them, seem to be engaged in ‘Sisyphusian’ battle of daily toil—or even worst, actually believing that their toils are genuine and that this is the last roll up the hill! I think Anatol Lieven needs to supersede “Pakistan: a hard country” with “Pakistan: a baffling country”. It runs on its own. A country that is running on prayers of a few, and sacrifices of the dead. It is, definitely, not running due to this bunch of thugs—sorry, politicians! “Sadiq” and “Amin”! Come on who coined this? We, if we are an Islamic thought, are supposed to be lead by those who lead us by the Quran! Not by those who are judged on some words which have a million interpretations. Thus, the confusion, my countryfolks. Thus, the conundrum. Bad Ass India and RSS Modi. Flailing and wailing baby Ghani! Taliban and ISIS. Internecine sectarian and ethnic warfare. Dying Kashmir. The looming Trump Tower. Drying country, dying exports, waning forex reserves, raping punchaiyats, fleeing elites. No water. No energy. No anything. What the hell! The headlines still scream politics at you. I understand media—they need ratings. I understand politicians—they are thugs! What I don’t understand is us, the people. Why do we fall for this “hook line and sinker” every time? Don’t give me the Karl Marx version. Just tell me, who needs a prime minister? For, I just looked around, and damn! What a beautiful country! What a brave common folk, I see around, struggling, moving and shaking Pakistan. Who needs a prime minister.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Changing myths and policies require effort for process and consultation

Raza Rumi argued recently that there are 5 myths in the Pakistani discourse that need to be put to rest. In his view these are the ‘Doctrine of Necessity,’ ‘Strategic depth,’ ‘Use of Proxies’, ‘Ummah’ and ‘China will fix all’. Raza is right. A large part of our media and intellect is discussing these myths. 

I would argue that Raza’s 5 myths stem from our inability to configure proper democracy. Any democratic government with an open process of policymaking with due diligence (research and reporting through white papers and documentation), public consultation (forums with government provided information and genuine participation) and open decision-making processes (forums at all levels with proper public participation and open minutes even if with a lag), ghosts and monsters can be confronted. Simple. No decision without first, adequate public scrutiny, second documentation and consultation at all levels including the public, and finally full disclosure.

There is no democracy without these 3 steps. Democracy is not mere elections but a complete process for running government for the welfare of a a free and sovereign people.

Change is not PM whim but his leadership of a process

This is what universities and think tanks are for. And yes, the government funds them to maintain this system of scrutiny on itself.

And yes! The PM must lead the process of changing policies and myths not by hiding in foreign travel but by leading the debate in Parliament cabinet and the public domain. He must use the civil service to research and prepare policies that are discussed in the public domain and in the cabinet. His word is not a command but a direction to be examined.

The civil military divide that so haunts out thinkers (who need to read a few primers in democracy) can also be handled in this open process of consultation. And yes, the army should be consulted and not treated like a subordinate department. In fact, no department should be a subordinate department. The job of the PM is to lead a consultation and not treat all as a subordinate.

Proper democratic processes are there to make consensus and democracy is about achieving consensuses. The term Prime Minister historically means first among ministers with the right to chair the cabinet. Even the Supreme court has noted that the decision-making power lies with the cabinet and not the PM.

Let me also mention an obsession of our intellectuals: foreign policy (4 out 5 of Raza’s myths are foreign policy). Yet I find no foreign policy documents related to strategic depth and our role in the Ummah put out by the government. Where are the discussions on this? Where are the speeches and thoughts on this? Not mere pouting by children and leaks like in Dawn leaks.

We all hear of Nawaz Sharif wanting better ties with India but has anyone seen a government document defining the possibilities for the new relationship? Was that ever taken up in the cabinet? Was that ever discussed in the National Security Council? Can we see the minutes? Why does the PM and the FM not give us a white paper.

Contrary to popular intellectual opinion, PM is not elected to rule. Everything that he wants cannot be policy. The system is operating in perpetuity and should. Each ruler has no right to stop the work that was begun by the preceding government and change all polices inherited. The election only gives them the right to alter policy directions after considerable consultation and due process. 

Whimsical government ended with the renaissance. Now we have continuity in policy which is tweaked and reformed through clear due process which our democrats hate.

Don’t derail the system but do let us talk of reform

While Raza talk of myths, let us also talk of the major omission--what we don’t discuss.

All discussion of reform is stifled by the intellectual/senior analyst class by yelling ‘don’t derail the system.’ Any talk of reform is thought to be anti-democracy. 

The expectation that somehow good democracy would happen after dynasties have run their course is expensive. Several generations will lose many opportunities before this happens. And as we have seen these politicians will do all in their power to strengthen their undemocratic system. They neither have the learning nor the statesmanship to seek better democracy. We have seen they will further foul up the system to make room for their family democracy. Will they allow reform to make true democracy happen?

We must not only talk of reform but agitate for it shout for it if we want a serious democracy that will save our state and society. Raise your voice for reform so that they are forced to change this system.

A large number of issues must be discussed when it comes to reform. Here is a sampling.

Why don’t we experiment with elections (proportional, ranked choice, multi round) that will produce better results?
Why don’t we have term limits?
Why don’t we rule out families offering too many candidates?
Why don’t we define parties better?
Why don’t we totally separate the election commission from the executive?
Should independent local governments not exist? With different election cycles?
Should we not have more equal sized provinces for a better democracy?
Why don’t we ban appointments for judges after retirement?
Why is the civil service not independent? Why is the civil service not reformed for professionalization with open entry?
Should there be an open transparent process to appoint people to key positions and taken out of the hands of the PM.
The PM should not have the power to transfer anybody. That is not part of representation.
There should be limits on the PMs ability to change budgets, engage in arbitrary expenditures, and give plots, perks and benefits to favorites.
We must ensure due process is followed.
Why don’t we make parliamentary attendance compulsory?
Why is cabinet meeting not made compulsory?
Why are minutes of most meetings not made available even if it is with a delay?
Changes in policy must be clearly planned, investigated and consulted.
Projects must be whetted, investigated and made public.
Why don’t we set up watchdogs like the CBO?

The conversation must be on change to push politicians

The family democrats with arbitrary power love the conversation that protects them from change. Should we keep the conversation on foreign policy and keep blaming the army to let them consolidate their arbitrary, lazy and wasteful rule? This is folly. 

Reform will not happen if we don’t push them to make it.  It is all right to wish for democracy but then let us get proper democracy and not some deformed variety that sneaks in dynasties from the back door to give them excessive arbitrary power without checks and balances or due process.

A reform discussion does not hurt democracy. Instead it nurtures it. It is the bad kind of reform that these politicians have done to consolidate arbitrary power that destabilizes the system. Let us not blame ghosts and monsters for this; our politicians repeatedly want to kill checks and balances and due process for personal benefits.

The system must be reformed for us to get a better crop of politicians who would want to develop democracy and truly represent people and not their dynasties. And no, the system is not derailed by talk of reform or a reform movement. On the contrary, the current trend to strengthens elected dynasties is stifling democracy.

And remember democracy is not just a bad election. It has to be framed to allow elections to deliver good government responsive to the needs to people. 



Thursday, 20 July 2017

I deserve to be PM too: have all the qualifications!

Amer Durrani, a bright young Pakistani entrepreneur/professional wrote this and wanted it published and discussed. 

Why? that should be obvious.

"I am a Pakistani. I believe that I am special. I have no dignity. I have no shame. I have no principles. I feel righteous and obligated to only my own beliefs. I know what is right for everybody. I am a slave to tradition. I find common good and social courtesies outside my belief system to be alien concepts. I am a “free-loader”. I do not want to work for a living, let alone work hard. I want to score one big deal and make all the money I need. I maybe dying of hunger but will shirk work as I believe the society should feed me. I treat authority with contempt except my own. I believe that slaughtering anybody in the name of my beliefs is ordained. I am above all law as I believe in Allah! I believe that anyone who does not share my belief system has no rights. I have no concept of what is a public office. I want power, righteously or otherwise. I do not like sharing power. I do not value anybody’s life and consequently unknowingly do not value my own either! I believe in miracles. I have no desire to learn. I have no desire to understand. I therefore do not value education. I could go on and on, but you got an idea. You know where I am going with this. I therefore think I can do no wrong. I have never done any wrong. I deserve to be a Pakistani. I deserve being the Prime Minister, in fact!"