It was a distinctive phenomenon way back in 1997 that Punjab witnessed the rise of a unique trend in terms of public management, articulated by its energetic Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif. The political pundits soon realized that in terms of efficiency of public service and the administration of the state machinery, the younger Sharif has set innovative leadership benchmarks that daunted the political class as a whole. However, he failed to achieve those standards during his second term due to varied reasons.
The 2008’s general elections were crucial for the whole nation for getting rid of delusive dictatorship and its wily minions who were badly defeated by the peeved voters yearning for socio-economic changes, corruption free administration, rule of law and efficient service delivery mechanism that could ensure improved quality of life.Poverty alleviation, terrorism, gasping economy and equal distribution of resources between the provinces were other sore issues which needed immediate attention. People wanted democracy that could deliver; their expectations were high and Charter of Democracy was taken as a ‘Magna Carta of hope’leading to new democratic road map Cooperation between the two major political parties, namely PPP and the PML (N) was fully endorsed by media and the people. However, this time power corridors were not as friendly for Shahbaz Sharif as they were before. PPP had majority in the centre and therefore a coalition government had to be formed in Punjab. Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif was also lacking competent, dedicated and professional civil servants to deliver and initiate new projects with same zeal which was exhibited during the previous stint.
As a result of PML (N)’s split during Musharraf regime, it didn’t did well in elections and could only form its government in Punjab-the traditional epicenter of its political power. It tried to exploit the post-Benazir scenario in favor of democracy;PML-(N) signed ‘Murree Declaration’ with opponent Asif Zardari to maintain the spirit of Charter of Democracy and even coined coalition governments which failed subsequently.Pakistani media,which emerged as a new powerful non-state actor, supported Sharif Brothers over these two core issues but the two Sharifs failed to influence devious Zardari over vital question of restoring deposed judges.
While Shahbaz Sharif succeeded in some medley developments in certain areas and no corruption scandal is another plus point but he badly failed to meet past performance.It seems ‘one-man rule’ is toiling all the developmental work as he goes every nook and corner of the province to take even the minutest decisions. Shahbaz Sharif, instead of attaining to micro priorities, should deal with macro issues as people want qualitative change in their lives and no hollow mongering.
It appears both he has no team and the people around him are incapable to deliver or sensitize him about importance of teamwork. He also paid no heed to making a dedicated team of professionals capable of delivering both ways- politically as well as administratively.Equally important is the issue of competent civil servants for Punjab who could realize the democracy-goals into reality. For hiring competent, dedicated and profession officers, who could prove to the expectations of the people, Punjab government should have had arranged incentives like better pay packages etc as intellect and competence has certain price tag. As Shahbaz Sharif was not having enough seats in the Assembly, therefore, he had to make deals with Unification Block comprising of PML (Q)’s dissident members to remain in power.He managed to stay in power, but at the cost of good governance standards.Today, dwindling law and order and continued price-hike have ruined the lives of the people and sagging economy has further exasperated the bleak future of the nation.
Shahbaz Sharif has many more failures; the cabinet remains incomplete despite many assurances and three important portfolios like finance, health and C&W are never filled. (Mian Mujtaba Shuja ur Rehman is given charge of education)PPP ministers are already shown the door and their MPAs are utterly dissatisfied as their voices were unheard in the government corridors. The good governance mantra proved an elusive dream for the hoi polloi who are sick of hollow sloganeering.His PPP ministers didn’t take any interest in their departments; while most of the politicians remained wary of bad behavior of his choosy circle of bureaucracy.Former Senior Minister Raja Riaz remained engrossed in postings/transfers and irrigation sector reforms were ignored or delayed. Due to lack of interest of Punjab government, Rs. 67 crore Zakat funds were lapsed as Punjab government failed to constitute zakat committees well in time. Punjab government even couldn’t deal well the scrapping of previous local government system.
Shahbaz Sharifeven failed to effectively utilize the available civil servants’lot and instead,kept on changing the administrative secretaries of important departments like Food dept., needlessly.This impish attitude weakened motivation and governance principles and his compromises for retaining political allies further undermined the past principled stance. Shahbaz Sharif’s lack of commitment delayed projects like extension of Punjab Assembly building. Infrastructural development was badly ignored in southern Punjab. Education side got some impetus while computerization of land records is still incomplete.Metro Bus Project has virtually bankrupted the provincial kitty. It seems Lahore is favorite choice for development for the Punjab rulers. Punjab government,though, launched social reform projects like Sasti Roti, food support program and Ramzan Package for the downtrodden, but no sustained planning has been taken to alleviate poverty, ensure 100% literacy, guarantee smooth law and order, protect minorities, bring the past political mafias to book and eliminate the spate of terrorism.
According to a Transparency international report, Sindh had surpassed Punjab as the most corrupt province. Corruption in KPK perceived to have increased by 13%, Sindh by 5% while corruption in Punjab is perceived to have decreased by 9% and Balochistan by 10%. But the biggest test of Shahbaz Sharif was to restore confidence on public sector which has not been done so far.
Another important aspect is non-professional media projection of the Chief Minister. Perhaps his media managers believe that coverage of daily routine is enough while it is not the case. His routine and Punjab government’s institutional achievements are two divergent things which should have been handled separately and specific media plans should be designed by the communication strategists, if there is any. A well-designed media campaign should not merely project a series of activities which are haphazardly sequenced and arbitrarily timed. It should be rolled out with clear purpose as part of a logical plan. He should utilize his DGPR department for projecting Punjab as hub of socio-economic development.
During the last five years, Punjab often worked for other provinces; it gave aid to Malakand IDPs,supplied 30,000 ton free wheat to Sindh, announced a state of the art cardiology hospital for Balochistan and DHQ Hospital for war torn Swat but the ruling PML (N)couldn’tsucceeded in getting any political mileage there.It’s important to point out that Punjab is not usurper of resources; it gets 47 percent allocation from the federal divisible pool against its 57 percent population and it has the highest poverty incidence in the country, which is even more than Balochistan. Per capita development expenditures in Punjab stand at Rs.1531 while the figure for Balochistan is Rs.3590. Balochistan is spending Rs.4976 per person on law and order whereas Punjab is spending just Rs.2576.
As the general elections are coming nearer; it is needed that voters should keep past performance of their candidates in mind before going to vote so that they could get apt leadership which could bring qualitative change in lives of the people otherwise Pakistan will continue to suffer in the hands of corrupt and dishonest cabal of crones.