Articles of the year 2010

The Power to Say 'NO'
Published on May 01st, 2010

The Supreme Court has struck down the promotion and extensions of 54 members of the senior bureaucracy as these were done in 'relaxation' of the rules. This 'relaxation' of the rules of business has been used by politicians many times to shuffle favourites upwards, or demote opponents downwards - or sideways - depending on the mood of the officer in charge. This time the prime minister has been misguided by his advisers and of course the PPP jiyalas who overestimated their power, thinking none dare challenge an edict issued from the office of the prime minister. They had not taken into consideration the fury of the 54 officers who had been passed over. These 54, needless to say, are secretary rank officers with a combined experience enough to make an elected prime minister think twice before making a move to dislodge them. This move may yet cost the PM his job, for the reinstated bureaucrats may well be looking at the detailed judgment to see how far outside the mandate of the prime minister's rules did he transgress, and what penalty did he invoke.

We can rest assure that it will be a long time before the PPP (or any other party) try to take on the bureaucracy of Pakistan again. The silver lining that is shining through is the newly re-found strength of the bureaucracy, who will now resist any 'bending' of the rules by the jiyalas or 'N' stalwarts, or anyone else for that matter. For a long time to come, this judgment will confer upon the officers of Pakistan the power to say 'no' to an illegal order emanating from any office. This does not mean that the likes of Babar Awan will not try it again, but to circumvent this judgment may be more than the skills of Babar Awan can manage. It would have been far simpler if the smart Nargis Sethi had advised against the move, but then she was blinded by her own benefits under the prime minister's action.

This power to say 'no' is the strongest instrument in the bureaucratic armoury, and it keeps the government on an even keel long before the knives of the opposition are brought into play - or the media for that matter. If the secretary petroleum had said 'no' in the first place the prime minister would not have had the embarrassment of having to take instructions from the Supreme Court again - for the attempted $25 billion LNG scam. This also opens a way for parties to ask for punishment to be handed out to the errant proponents. There are indeed many people who watch in dismay the endemic corruption of the ministers of the PPP, and the stalwarts who insist that corruption is their right and have earned Pakistan the distinction of bringing this to the notice of viewers worldwide courtesy Youtube on the internet.

Surely, we have other properties we should be famed for. The worst part is that the minister in question is still a part of the government, and seen hobnobbing comfortably beside the prime minister in the Assembly. It would be in the fitness of things if he was sacked, and the sacking could be put on the internet as an example for other like-minded politicians.

The prime minister has been put firmly in the target area, and would do well to distance himself from the errant and corrupt deals that are surfacing with nauseous regularity, much to the chagrin of the old guard of the PPP.

The new and the old PPP will surely not be allowed a look in at the next elections. For there is a wave of revulsion at the corruption, and the public is adamant that the companies at the forefront should be taken to task instead of a wrist-slapping debate on the floor, some more serious action has to be considered.

In the meantime, the strengt-hened bureaucracy will have to say 'no' with a louder voice, and they should dissuade the minister from such actions. It is quite likely that many of the questionable contracts would not have seen the light of day if the 'rules of business' had been followed.

At the same time, thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling as now the bureaucracy can exercise the power of their 'no'. Which can save the prime minister and the country from any further embarrassment, and corruption.