The 21st point: Overhaul the state

Note: This article was completed on December 31st, 2014, and was originally posted on this Blog in January 2015.

Presently there is happening quite a serious debate on the 20 points envisaged in the National Action Plan. Its thrust is on two points:

i) All these measures should have been in their place since long as a matter of routine, probably from the day first when Pakistan came to exist; and,

ii) Due to the past negligence of the governments, doubts and questions are being raised about the efficacy of these measures.

The argument the present writer aims to make is a bit different; he wants to propose a 21st point to be added to the NAP, which focuses on overhauling the state. Let’s be precise in judging: It’s the state that played havoc with the society of Pakistan, and now it needs to be back to the basics!

First and foremost: The politicians of Pakistan should stop behaving like Haakim and Ashraaf; they are empowered by the vote of people and are bound to act in accordance with the provisions of the constitution; they are the same citizens albeit with certain responsibilities and duties with which strings of accountability are attached.
The citizens of Pakistan while they participated in the Lawyers’ Movement learnt about: Constitutionalism; Rule of Law; Fundamental Rights; Independence of Judiciary: these must materialize into reality. That amounts to minimizing the role of the politicians which they exert on the society and market through various instruments of the state and government; and that will strengthen and enhance the civil society and its role in the life of the citizens.
There are two domains wherein an urgent overhaul is required: Political and Economic. In the political domain, following practical measures are needed:
i) The role of the state be redefined as a protector of the citizens life, property and their freedoms and not as an institution of welfare, and not as a proprietor of Business; 
ii) Constitutionalism should be the only way to run the affairs of the state; 
iii) Top priority be given to the protection of all the citizens’ life, property and their fundamental rights; especially the right to religious freedom be ensured to every citizens whatever his/her faith is; 
iv) Institutions and agencies responsible to dispense justice and extend protection to the citizens, such as Police, Courts, be made autonomous and accountable to the parliament or the provincial assemblies as the case may be; 
v) Civilian authority be retrieved and restored both in letter and spirit; formulation of defense and foreign policies constitutionally rests with the elected government and parliament, these should go back to them; as in accord with the constitution the Army has nothing to do with any other matters save related to its professional duties, it must confine itself to the role assigned by the constitution; also not only the Army but all the intelligence agencies be made accountable to the parliament; 
vi) Any interference in the matters of the state and its institutions whether it comes from the political or military quarters be not heeded to in the least and violators be brought to the book; 
vii) Judiciary be completely made independent financially and in matters of its appointments especially; 
viii) All the institutions of the state, such as Election Commission, National Accountability Bureau, be made autonomous absolutely impervious to any external influence; 
ix) In the matters of Army’s and Bureaucracy’s appointments, posting, transfers, promotions, Prime Minister’s, or any minister’s prerogatives be done away with, and the principle of merit and seniority strictly be followed; 
x) All the legislation regarding the citizens’ right to information be it at the federal or provincial level is a farce; in fact all the information regarding the affairs of the state and government belongs to the citizens; why should they pay and be asking for it; so it be posted on the respective websites for their examination; 
xi) The role of all the elected representatives be confined to the matters of legislation and they should enjoy no other status or powers; no funds, be it for development or for any other purpose, be given to them; 
xii) Foreign visits of state and government officials be drastically curtailed; no visit be allowed without prior budget sanction; 
xiii) It be legislated that only professional politicians could contest and become elected representatives, and no one doing or having any business interests could join politics and government.
In the domain of Pakistan’s economy, following radical reforms need to be introduced: First and foremost: The state must come back to its original protective function and focus on its regulatory and facilitatory role and be doing no business at all. 
i) All the lands gifted/allotted by the British to anyone be taken back and distributed to landless peasants and homeless citizens under a uniform policy; 
ii) All the monetary privileges and tax exemptions be abolished;

iii) All the discretionary powers, discretionary or secret funds be stopped; 

iv) All the state enterprises be privatized be they incur profit or loss; 
v) As growth is a function of citizens’ entrepreneurial efforts, and state or government creates not a single penny of wealth, this be adopted as a guiding principle while formulating any economic policies; 
vi) As in its role of a taxman, the state by heavily taxing can hamper the economic growth, so it must commit itself to the principle of lower and flat rate taxes; 
vii) As a regulator, the state should commit itself to the principle of regulation for facilitation, not for control; 
viii) All the restrictions on domestic or international trade be lifted; it’s for the producers/traders to see and decide where to export to and where to import from; 
ix) In the spirit of a slim, smart and strong state, unnecessary ministries, departments, etc. be downsized or done away with altogether; 
x) As the state machinery, i.e. departments of the state which collect tax or render various services, such as permissions, licenses, has become an enemy of the people, a complete overhaul of it is long due; with an iron hand it be made citizen-friendly; 
xi) All the accounts of the state be posted on the respective websites and even a single penny be accounted for, i.e. political and economic parasitism must come to an end.

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