BALOCHISTAN NEEDS GOOD GOVERNANCE NOT MONEY
By Dr Mir Sadaat
“Strong government doesn’t mean simply military power or an efficient intelligence apparatus. Instead, it should mean effective, fair administration – in other words, ‘good governance’.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday strongly condemned terrorist attacks against Frontier Constabulary (FC) troops in Quetta and Turbat and reiterated the government’s resolve to fight the terrorists and foil attempts against peace and development of Balochistan. Prime Minister Khan said the present government, despite economic constraints due to the debt burden it inherited and the fact that there was a coalition government in the province, was spending much in Balochistan because it owned the people of Balochistan, which was neglected in the past. “If the previous governments would have spent more in Balochistan in the past, the situation of the province would have been better,” he remarked. Here I would like to disagree with Prime Minister Imran Khan for the sake of argument that we don’t need money we need good governance to change our fortune.
It saddens the heart that despite all the money the things in Balochistan are not getting on track. Here, one need to understand that watering a rock will not turn the garden green, we need to turn to the flowers if we fancy spring. The government is putting in a lot efforts but in wrong direction. The principal issue is not about non development and non-investment. However, the problem of Balochistan is a social issue that compound due to bad governance and opinion base policy making. For example, the seventh National Finance Commission has increased the flow of finances from the central government to Balochistan from seven percent to nine percent. Despite this increase, the socio-economic indicators of the province are still to improve considerably. Each year billions of rupees are not utilised due to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in the system.
The essential principle of problem-solving is to acknowledge the fact that there is a problem. As long as the government of Balochistan does not realise their unskillfulness, it will be a zero-sum equation. The day of reckoning has to come for the political elite of Balochistan because we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. There are many factors contributing to the failure of this government and previous governments and they all converge to the core issue of bad governance.
An effective administration depends on the socio-political structure of the society. However, if there is a clash between the political structure and social values, then governance is a disorderly responsibility. This volatility will result in erratic and risky behavior by the rulers. In transitional societies like Balochistan, the political structure and social values must be consistent. On the contrary, we are trying (and failing) to create an effective democratic administration based on egalitarian norms and rational decision with the help of the political elite that has irrational, impulsive and despotic tendencies. This paradox is resulting in unsuccessful and unproductive governments in Balochistan.
In Balochistan, the government’s inability to capture citizens’ hearts and minds have resulted in other ideas and narratives taking root. One of the major reasons behind the current state of affairs is the absence of a public voice. In the vacuum left by the government, sectarian and separatist ideologues compete for control. Engagement with communities for peacebuilding has emerged as a key priority among high-level reviews of the UN system. Fruitful associations between people and the government make community engagement necessary and viable as it will lead to impartial and supportable public decisions. For a complex issue like development and peace where traditional approaches have been ineffective then community engagement will enable a better understanding of the public’s needs and aspirations.
The political elite in Balochistan need to understand that the government operates in the society and the people operate within their societal context. The need of the hour is a gradual restructuring of the society based on prevalent social norms and values such as hard work, righteousness, transparency, accountability, responsibility, obligation, integrity, loyalty, magnanimity, and scholarship. Engaging the public is the only means of moving forward and the federal and provincial governments have to share the responsibility. It is necessary to understand that the violence in Balochistan is not just a question of terrorist safe havens; it has to do with a disconnect between the government and the public. We lack a culture of serious research and analysis, which is the primary way of coming up with practical and result-oriented policy discourses. Today, what we direly need is a well-thought community engagement intervention based on proper research and analysis grounded on evidence but any such engagement will not be effective without good governance.
For good governance to prevail I would like to propose few basic actions as a starter pack:
- People should be able to voice their own opinions through legitimate immediate organizations or representatives.
- Legal framework should be enforced impartially, without rule of law, politics will follow the principle of matsya nyaya i.e., law of fish which means the strong will prevail over the weak.
- Consensus oriented decision-making ensures that even if everyone does not achieve what they want to the fullest, a common minimum can be achieved by everyone which will not be detrimental to anyone.
- Good governance assures an equitable society. People should have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.
- Good governance aims towards betterment of people, and this cannot take place without the government being accountable to the people.
- Information should be accessible to the public and should be understandable and monitored.
- Institutions and processes should serve all stakeholders in a reasonable period of time.
- Government must assure that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making.
Government needs to think in terms of relationship-building, rather than seclusion. The role of the masses is fundamental in social change, and we must realize it. The state needs to foster relationships directly, not through a third party. Change cannot be forced from an external source; it just has to come from the people. The state must engage the people of Balochistan directly to create a ‘collective will,’ instead of aiming for ‘collective submission’ through tribalism and political elites.