By Imdad Hussain Rajwa
Social media is flooded with the news of Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) endeavoring to take the region to new heights of progress. Pictures of educational galas being conducted, signing of MOUs with Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other organizations were making rounds on social media. Recently, he also signed an MOU with Shifa International Hospital wherein the latter has agreed to provide consultancy in health sector. Although, all these measures are steps in the right direction, they are not enough to uplift the region.
As a student of politics and international relations, I believe that social change is counterproductive unless we make efforts to bring in changes in the material culture of the region. For instance, without widening the roads if we introduce new cars in the region, the influx of cars is not going to have an impact on the lives of inhabitants. Similarly, without having effective institutions education and health sectors will remain in shambles. The reason is only institutions have the capacity to bring out the best human capital through standard practices and procedures. Unfortunately, GB has been treated as a child of a lesser God since its annexation with the Kashmir issue. No subsequent government has attempted to effect the lives of people through systematic changes. Strong institutions upheld the norms and rules essential for growth of human capital and ensure good governance in a system.
Most of the problems, the region faces, could have been resolved by now, given there were strong institutions to cater the needs of the people. Unfortunately, GB is being ruled by a colonial mentality that comprises of the federal government and the officers promoted from lower ranks and cadres. The former sends bureaucrats from civil service to govern the region, and, sadly, these CSPs are empowered to an extent where the local elected members are defied with impunity. The elected representatives reluctantly cooperate with the officers sent by FG for these officers have the keys to unlock the doors of government coffers on which the whole region has been dependent for last 75 years. Secondly, there is no established local bureaucracy who can run the affairs smoothly at par with the civil servants of FG. In some cases, they are deliberately ignored to continue the dependency syndrome. Thirdly, the civil servants in connivance with the rankers tame the handful local bureaucracy to maintain their monopoly in the affairs of governance. The rankers being incompetent obliged to appease their masters, civil servants of FG, and such taming and cunning behavior has multiplied the woes of citizens.
The nascent devolution plan, in form of GB order 2009, has just made the common masses aware of how democratic set ups work in political systems. But, a lot is yet to be done. In contrast, the mainstream provinces are ahead of GB owing to the former’s established institution which help the provincial governments to recruit young bloods through their respective Provincial Public Commissions. These commissions act promptly to induct competent human capital to run the affairs of government. On the other hand, GB is still dependent on Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) to recruit candidates in various departments. FPSC being the central conducting body pay less heed to the de facto matters and subjects. For instance, GB Competitive Exam (GBCE) is not a recurring event and the reason is FPSC does not want to burned itself by taking the onerous on its shoulder. Had GB had its own Public Service Commission, the event would have been a recurring one and the problem of soaring unemployment would have been addressed to a large extent. Also, the local bureaucracy could have been trained to achieve the ends. This sums up the sorry affairs and lagging progress of the region. As well as, absence of a strong public commission hints at who is the beneficiary of this weak system.
Effective governance in the region can be cultivated through a robust bureaucracy and established institutions. Establishment of strong institutions is responsibility of political leadership and Chief secretary; the latter being mouth piece of FG can play a vital role in this regard. Institutions can create a great impact and, therefore, are necessary to bring forth competent blood to serve the nation. Building of institutions provide solution of existential problems whereas other cosmetic measures can only help manage the underlying problems. To my surprise, many of graduates, including myself, have been commending the cosmetic measures instead of the earnest efforts. Any public servant or elected representatives making efforts to resolve issues are a great service to the nation, otherwise management of the problem is a mere public stunt to keep up with the social fame. The ball is in the court of youth either to make the stunts viral or rebut the nonsense to the core.