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Unpacking the governance debate

If the intent of the unregulated media and a recalcitrant establishment is to dismiss the government to achieve better governance then this is at best a delusional goal

Recent weeks have witnessed a supercilious debate on how the current government’s misgovernance is a potent reason to boot it out. Governance is about decisions, resources and management of public affairs. The sad reality is that Pakistan’s media now controls and spins the public discourse on these issues. The popular media never wanted this government to begin with. Since 2007, it sided with the ‘clean’ and morally correct lawyers’ movement that presented an alternative to the corrupt politicians and shunned the 2008 election. First, it vilified Benazir Bhutto for making a deal with the Generals on initiating a transition towards a power-sharing arrangement. This was a classic worldview of the urban middle class, which has never been a keen participant of the messy electoral politics that brings rural politicians with fake degrees at the helm of affairs.
The second critical moment was the election of the President, which sparked an unprecedented media trial with stories (mostly unsubstantiated) of Zardari’s corruption. There was a strong alliance between the local and the global media churning out a thousand stories highlighting his insanity, fallibility and venality. This happened despite the full confidence expressed by Zardari’s party and its allies. A rare federal consensus over the election of a President was undermined and the media perception intensified how all the crooks stand together to rob the country once again.
October 4th, 2010|governance, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|1 Comment

Whither civilian governance?

My new piece published by The Friday Times

While the gurus of security and international affairs continue to unpack and make sense of the high-profile and much-hyped strategic dialogue , the people of Pakistan continue to ask questions about its direct relevance to their lives. If increased US investment in the energy sector and other poverty alleviation programmes would be outcomes of this exercise, perhaps there may be some hope for an ordinary Pakistani. However, it appears that the process of dialogue has harped on familiar tunes, adding to the sound and fury that defines Pak-US relations.

If anything, the re-emergence of the Pakistan Army’s ascendancy over national affairs has been a direct result of the much touted “strategic” dialogue. The Pakistan Army and its leadership have already taken over the foreign policy and recent developments suggest that their command and control over domestic policies of public interest remains as entrenched as ever. Whether this pertains to the meeting of top bureaucrats presided over by the Chief of the Army Staff, or the capitulation of the civilian government before the obsessively India-centric policy of our military-bureaucratic establishment, we are sure about who is calling the shots in the Land of the Pure. […]