Governance by technocrats

ByFahad Ali

Associated with maritime trade


January 7, 2023

Governance by technocrats

Fahad Ali can see a particular angle in oft-repeated proposali

Every so often the forces that matter in Pakistan rattle the civil democratic Governance by technocrats system by propagating an alternative system that they consider more amenable to their particular brand of managing the country. These forces particularly throw this option into the open once they perceive any danger to their dominance of national affairs. The past experience reveals that they get such proposals mooted by so-called technocrats and also arrange them to become a hot topic in both the electronic and print media. Though such proposals are always of dubious intent and value but they invariably succeed in creating a sensation in governance circles thereby letting the arbitrary forces achieve their goal. It is quite intriguing to observe though that the impact of this trick has diminished in affectivity yet the arbitrary forces keep on pitting it and the civil democratic elements always going on the defensive despite realising its absurdity. It is quite obvious that floating such an idea just after making the announcement of becoming neutral in governance affairs, the forces of status quo are contradicting what they have proclaimed with the result that they are roundly criticised about it.

In a fresh attempt, the idea of forming a technocratic government has gained wide traction in the country and this time this proposal advocates an extended tenure of two to three years for it with the primary aim to extricate the country out of the highly depressing economic crisis experienced by Pakistan. It is clear from the very outset that this proposal is way out of the domains of constitutional democratic rule and in any rational polity it would not only be condemned but its perpetrators would have been exposed to intense ridicule and possible banishment from national governance mainstream. But not in Pakistan where, contrary to all nuances of legalistic behaviour, this idea is not only entertained but widely commented upon. It is not even realised that the political parties’ apparatus in Pakistan would deeply resent it and that it will also disrupt the prevailing adherence to the rule of law. It is not taken cognizance of the fact that the collateral damage inflicted by extra-constitutional governments has intensely hurt the foundations of the state and have created deep schisms within the machinery of the state.

While floating the harmful proposal with inbuilt extra-constitutional provisions, the proposers ignore the lessons of the past that clearly point out that all such actions taken through such a device are duly reversed when civilian democratic governance is restored. Even the temporary flourish experienced by bringing in such regimes in the past never enjoyed the legitimacy required for their continuation enabling democratic setups to brush them aside. On the other hand, deep divisions created by such extra-constitutional diversions in governance cause serious disruptions in the normal functioning of the state and negatively alter the socio-cultural texture of the country in ways which have promoted violence, factionalism, extremism, ethnic divisions and intolerance in society. To many discerning minds such non-economic factors are mainly responsible for the sustained and palpable erosion of the economic foundations of the country. It is widely recognised that harmony in socio-political environment is the sine qua non for economic progress as inclusive development cannot take place in a state where social capital and trust are missing. In the absence of such criteria, what gains ascendance is individual greed supported by parochial interests whereby elites take shape manipulating both the economy and polity.

It is also not even realised that the economic woes such technocratic government is proposed to tackle have wider reasons particularly the global economic considerations that any such government will never be able to deal with. It perceives that Pakistani economy could be separated from its global counterpart and can be managed on its own despite the presence of deep and essential connections with the former. This thought process clearly points to the fact that the proposers of this outlandish proposal are trying to make policy makers believe in something that they themselves are not convinced about but wants to cause jitters within governance circles. This brings to fore the unfortunate reality that the arbitrary forces willingly create chaos with the ultimate aim to step in when matters accordingly deteriorate. What comes out of such a conduct is the tacit wish of the arbitrary forces is that even the domestic harmony could conveniently be thrown under the bus while pursuing their own goals irrespective of the horrendous consequences of following such a policy.

There is hardly any doubt that a technocrat government bereft of constitutional legitimacy and consensual political support has very little chance of delivering better results as had happened in the past. On the contrary, it is a widely recognised fact that directly elected dispensations enjoying popular electoral support always stand a far better chance to meet not only the expectations of people but also achieve desired economic results. It must always kept in view that the most crucial weapon at the disposal of democratically elected civilian government is their ability and propensity to keep on carrying discussions with all stakeholders and to offer appropriate compromises. Their best tendency is that they are not deterred by differences in policies, views and stances and never discontinue the process of parleys that ultimately result in evolving a consensus on removing the major constraints facing the economy. This is precisely the reason that civilian political dispensations keep on creating and maintaining forums such as parliamentary committees, various levels of security institutions and economic platforms like Council of Common Interests and National Economic Council and utilise them as potent agencies and instruments for taking developmental policies further.

Most importantly, the elected civilian democratic dispensations are ultimately responsible to the people for whatever actions they undertake during their stints in power whereas technocratic formations do not feel encumbered by such vital oversight. In the absence of such important oversight the technocratic setups veer into policy aspects that have proved to be harmful to the long term national interests of the country as has happened in the past when military dictatorships outsourced governance to the technocrats. Moreover, the technocrats themselves have no long term stakes in the governance structure and they apply whimsical theories to the national projects that usually are shelved causing losses to the national exchequer. What has been observed in this respect is that informal and private behaviour in domains of public policy and their implementation mostly pushes back the social and economic growth. Additionally, such an attitude gives rise to gradual loss of confidence in the intention and ability of the official apparatus of the country that is what is now experienced by Pakistan whose official actions are taken with a pinch of salt by most of the international financial donors.

In wake of the above it is essential to take into account periodic recurrence of proposals such as bringing in a technocratic government in Pakistan with a view to apprise the people of the potential hazards of such suggestions. It is also imperative to discourage so-called shallow technocrats like Shabbar Zaidi to suggest such measures through media sources and, if found feasible, to make him to comprehend that he should not take undue liberties with the two-minutes of fame that mistakenly came his way. TW


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