Good Governance?

The sheer size of the Shaukat Aziz Cabinet is staggering, 32 Federal Ministers with another 26 Ministers of State added on Saturday. Add a number of perennial, long-serving advisors and architects will remain busy designing a mezzanine floor to accommodate one-and-all, Cabinet meetings could go on for days. As for the headaches of security staff, what’s to stop some enterprising media person slipping into a Cabinet meeting as a Minister of State? The all-time record for Pakistan has already put paid one’s personal expectations of our technocrat PM, that he would not be dictated to. Having to pander constantly to virtually all “special interest” individuals and groups, will a hamstrung Shaukat be able to rule effectively? If one has to compromise constantly and on all issues, “good governance” is hardly possible by throwing ministers at the problems.

There were no “superstars”, in Pervez Musharraf’s Cabinet of Oct 1999 except maybe for Shaukat Aziz, and he is now PM. Some were not as capable as one would have wanted them to be, none were tainted with corruption, in Pakistan no mean achievement. The Cabinet foisted upon Zafarullah Khan Jamali in 2002 because of political circumstances demanded concessions and adjustments. Blackmail may be a very strong word, the smaller parties got away with the lion’s share of the available Cabinet posts, and the more powerful ones at that. Resentment among the PML (Q) faithful was kept in line by party leaders by the force of logic (of survival). With the President calling the shots publicly and arm-twisting behind the scenes, and Ch Shujaat in control of the party machine, Jamali remained a lame-duck PM for the entire tenure of his stay. Parting company with grace after the Federal Budget for 2004-2005 had been voted upon, Jamali continues to show his breeding, even though the bitterness does creeping through the smiling façade from time to time.

We were given to hope that technocrat Shaukat Aziz would wield a large broom, brushing aside the inefficient and the corrupt, with no reason to compromise on the basic ingredients of good governance, honest and able managers at every strata, nowhere more necessary than at the Cabinet level. However Shaukat as PM soon received his first lesson in realpolitik. The Jamali/Ch Shujaat contingent of ministers are back in full strength in the Shaukat Aziz Cabinet, with their numbers doubled, one wonders whether, except for rhetoric, will “good governance” ever be possible in Pakistan?

For seven years a member of the Board of Directors of Bank Al Falah (formerly BCCI and Habib Credit & Exchange Bank Ltd) I have been privileged to have worked with Sheikh Nahayan Al Mubarak Al Nahayan (as the principal shareholder he was the Chairman till 2 years ago till he took over as Chairman UBL, his brother HE Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahayan is presently the Chairman). One of the finest human beings one has been privileged to know, the great quality of His Highness is his par excellence managerial capabilities. Ask anyone who has come into contact with His Highness and they will tell you how and why Bank Al Falah has grown from three branches in 1997 to nearly a hundred (by end 2005). His Highness has contrived this extraordinary expansion by constantly evoking discussions and evolving consensus on issues, always keeping his cool and sense of humour. I am privileged to be his friend, that friendship is very forgiving of my bluntness. His love for Pakistan is not articulated in words alone but by actual deeds, constantly putting direct investment into Pakistan, particularly when it was not fashionable to do so (very lately Warid Telecommunications). Aside from Board Meetings, I have been privileged to speak to him many times about issues concerning Pakistan. In his own words, “good governance at the State level is only possible if you set a personal example, personally and professionally, put the right people in the correct slots and ensure that you hold the team that you select to the same high standards”. His Highness is visiting Lahore today to inaugurate the restoration of the old “Shah Din Building” on The Mall, a pet project of his, we in Pakistan could use some “tutorials’ from UAE’s Minister for Higher Education.

Shaukat Aziz cannot be held responsible (at least as yet), but if things go wrong he should be ready to be the scapegoat as was Jamali. The least Shaukat could have done was to put the right people in the right slots e.g. Hafeez Shaikh is wasted if he is not in Finance and even though I personally do not care much for Javed Ashraf Qazi, one must be objective in noting that he did a good enough job in Pakistan Railways and could have been best used in the Interior Ministry, the area of his special expertise. Since water is likely to be a sensitive issue and likely Dams are in the NWFP or further north, why change Aftab Khan Sherpao from continuing the excellent job he was doing in Water and Power, does anyone really expect Liaquat Jatoi to perform as well? Given his input in water issues over the past 3 years, this slot should have gone to Nisar Memon. One is really proud of the fact that Mushahid Hussain elected not to become a Federal Minister to go with his role as Secretary General PML. He could have easily been Foreign Federal Minister or Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and Political Affairs. A decade ago, Mushahid had to choose between individual and institution, this time around he got it right and chose the institution over a ministerial appointments, it puts him on a pedestal apart. Mushahid has outstanding intellect to go with his management expertise, this augers well for the PML as a party. With Mushahid controlling day-to-day people affairs, PML should get very well organized well before the next elections. With the PPP as a national party and MMA emerging as one, the PML needed a solid base to have credibility as an alternative, Mushahid is (and has) the right prescription for this. Now if we had a few more Shaukats and Mushahids, we would not be faced with debate on “good governance” issues.

Shaukat Aziz has stated that the governance in his Cabinet will be fully transparent, that is as it should be. Despite skepticism at the size of the Cabinet and the handicaps they represent individually and collectively in smooth governance, there is always hope that the technocrat in Shaukat Aziz will prevail over his Cabinet colleagues to deliver on the promises made ad nauseam to the people of Pakistan by our rulers without really meaning to keep those promises.