From honesty and competence, Pakistan has reached highest levels of corruption and incompetence. When the journey started on August 14, 1947 everyone tried his best. As the first born free generation of the motherland, we have witnessed the decline resulting in the rise and fall for our own nation which is indeed painful. Today most honest people have been rendered incompetent while the corrupt have usurped competence. Where did we go wrong? Can we come out of his malise?

It has been reported that the first dictator Ayub Khan was asked if he preferred competent and dishonest officers or honest and not so competent type. His choice was the former since then the fine balance between competency and honesty has been disturbed. Today most people have become competent for themselves only. National interests have become subservient to personal gains. There is no relief for the common man. Almost all institutions have either collapsed or corrupt to the core.

The overall competency levels have also declined over the years. Basic reading and writing skills have taken a nose dive. In offices the able stenographers have vanished, who knew shorthand and could draft letters expeditiously. There was a time when every letter got a reply, not any more. The triple drawer theory now applies. Every correspondence first arrives in the top drawer, in two weeks it reaches the lower most drawer where it is kept for thirty days before being trashed.

I am all for accountability, but in a sea of incompetence, it may prove to be a futile effort which will result in defensive cover up. There are serious capacity issues which have to be addressed before the system can be made functional. Even the recruitment process is seriously flawed. Political appointees are now running the system with disastrous consequences. Recently the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has decided to review MQM appointments in the Police department in Sindh. Criminal record of the individuals is being reviewed. A similar situation prevails in Punjab as well.

Abbas Khan a well respected officer of Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) had the unique distinction of serving as Inspector General (IG) in all four provinces. As IG Punjab, he raised the question of inappropriate recruitments in the department. According to him individuals with criminal record had been inducted into the law enforcement department resulting in serious consequences. He was removed from his position for going public. The police force in Punjab is not only corrupt, it is grossly incompetent as they have been recruited for all the wrong reasons.

Another serious area of concern is of public records. Over the years either the records have been mismanaged or deliberately destroyed. Now the onus has fallen on the public to establish their claims, verification of record is not available as most departments do not have the original files. Without proper data and record no system can function. That is why most state institutions have become non-functional. Public is seriously suffering from this shortcoming. It is the responsibility of the state to streamline its record keeping before the bubble bursts. Official surveys should be conducted for this purpose and records should be revived and updated.

The gimmickry of computerisation of records is not working. Only a small segment of record is available online while tall claims are being made. For simple verification of documents it takes from six months to one year as the original files are not available. Most data has to be rebuilt for while the onus is on the public instead of the department that mishandled it. The Chief Minister (CM) should establish a ‘Records Complaint Cell’ within his secretariat to ensure expeditious verification of documents.

Another major stride towards incompetence and corruption was made after the 1985 party less elections. Each elected member was allocated a recruitment quota in return for his loyalty to the government. It opened the floodgates of corruption. Education, health, revenue, local government and Police were the most hard hit departments; which is why they are totally non-functional. While education and health have been privatized with no regulatory framework to protect public interests. Revenue and police departments continue to consume resources with no output.

Now that the political cleansing has started, it should not stop here. The tainted riders from the dirty stables have done a lot of recruitment against merit for their own riding interests. If state institutions have to function they have to be manned by competent and honest individuals recruited by a due process with complete transparency followed by accountability. In the prevalent situation of gross incompetence and corruption, good governance is a pipe dream. Remember that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the last Prime Minister who reviewed and then wrote on the files rest has relied on verbal nods and subordinate inputs; the results of this approach are visible today.

              The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan

Science Foundation.