While the PTI government is feverishly engaged in bringing legislation for curbing corruption and taking steps for repatriation of the looted wealth stashed abroad, according to its declared agenda, it has not lost sight of improving governance to lift the standard of delivery to the masses and addressing their grievances on a priority basis. The decision to launch Citizens Portal and its inauguration by Prime Minister on Sunday is indeed an unprecedented and monumental stride towards addressing public grievances against government departments expeditiously.

The step indicates the concern and sensitivity of the PTI government to the public ordeal and its commitment to change the corruption-ridden delivery system into a well galvanised structural arrangement capable of eliminating the permeating culture of corruption. Unfortunately, corruption has attained cancerous proportions in our society, more so in the echelons of the government including the departments required to deliver services to the people. No government during the last seventy years has taken any earnest step to arrest the descent of society into a corruption-afflicted entity. The situation in the government departments dealing with the public has been pathetic as there was no effective system in fashion to address the public grievances. It is an accepted reality that corruption has been the been of our socio-economic development and the present economic crisis undoubtedly is a sequel to that detestable phenomenon. The people had to run from pillar to post and grease the palms of the government officials to have even their legitimate and problems attended by them. This overall deterioration was the result of the trickle-down effect of corruption that prevailed in the higher echelons of the government made possible by the inbuilt avenues of corruption in the archaic colonial system of governance.

No government whether military or civilian evinced genuine interest in eradicating corruption and improving the delivery system to the public. The so-called anti-corruption initiative unfolded by them were target-specific meant to settle political scores with political opponents rather than being genuine attempts to change the system in conformity with the objectives of independence. The founder of Pakistan in his address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947 had identified corruption as the biggest menace and threat for the newly born country. He urged its elimination to improve the lives of the poor masses. Perhaps it would be pertinent to include excerpts from his speech to elucidate his message further. He said “One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering - I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse - is bribery and corruption. If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.” This message, regrettably, fell on deaf ears of our successive rulers who continued to perpetuate the colonial system of governance that encouraged a culture of graft and entitlement.

Pakistan is, however, lucky to have ultimately found a leader in Imran Khan who is committed and honest in imparting a decisive blow to the culture of corruption and making the system of governance responsive to the needs of the public. The launching of the citizens portal marks the beginning of achieving that objective. Every citizen whether living in Pakistan or abroad who registers with the portal will be able to record his complaint through an APP which would be run through Beta Android version. The government also envisages inclusion of IOS version so that the citizens who are using iPhones can also register their complaints through the device that they are using. About 3760 federal and provincial departments will be linked with the portal and the complaints lodged by the citizens would automatically reach the heads of the concerned departments. The citizens would also be able to upload videos, audios and picture files in support of the complaints. The heads of the departments will be under obligation to settle the claims within ten days of their receipt.

Citizens Portal is first of its kind application in Pakistan which uses ICT towards e-governance in the real sense. The unique essence of the APP is the integration at various levels of the government. A complaint registered by a citizen will become immediately available at the dashboards of the ministries and departments. The citizens will also be able to provide feedback to the government and rate their complaint resolution. The Prime Minister will be personally monitoring the whole exercise as all the departments and ministries will be sending regular reports to him to keep him abreast about the working of the system.

The initiative taken by the government will be welcomed by all those who are sick and tired of the failure of the government departments to deliver to the masses and the rampant corruption in them that had made the life of the citizens miserable. The system will surely enhance the performance of government departments. The transparency and time-constraint involved in settling the complaints and its continuous monitoring by the concerned ministries and the Prime Minister will act as a significant deterrent against the delay in dealing with public grievances and extracting illegal gratification from the citizens by the government functionaries. That way it will lead to the elimination of corruption in the public dealing government departments. The feedback provided by the citizens will also help the government in identifying the maladies afflicting the system and taking necessary administrative and legal measures to make it delivery-oriented and corruption-free; a phenomenon which has been missing during the last seventy years.

The success of the initiative launched by the government will depend on the interest and cooperation coming forth from the people. Hopefully, they will not only welcome the move which aims at providing relief and improving the standard of delivery to them but will also render due support to it by enlisting their grievances and providing appropriate feedback to the government. It is also imperative that the government makes sure that the system works as envisaged and the fervour and enthusiasm in launching the system are not allowed to ebb away with the passage of time.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.

 ashpak10@gmail.com