Tag Archives: local

Collapsing local governance

By Raza Rumi

Recent floods have exposed the capacity of the state to govern, especially at the local level. The disintegration of local state is not a recent phenomenon. The continued experimentation with and frequent strangulation of local governance arrangements have led to a situation that Pakistan’s burgeoning population is now without a representative, accountable local state.

Erosion of state writ: Three historical trends are noticeable for their impact on the overall governance and the writ of the state. First, centralisation is a tendency that is most attractive to those who govern Pakistan at the federal and provincial levels. The post-colonial Pakistani state has retained the official obsession of controlling power and patronage at the top and denuding the local space for democratic development and sound mechanisms of accountability. Secondly, granting local autonomy has, by and large, been a smokescreen for powerful military governments to bypass provincial politics and control the levers of state and society from above. Thus, we have an established pattern: local government experiments flourish under authoritarian regimes and get undermined whenever democracy, a la Pakistani variety, returns. Finally, the constant denial of a responsive state at the local level has led to erosion of state legitimacy and the void has been filled in by mafias, politico-criminal gangs and militant non-state actors.
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Filed under disaster

Our reaction to the floods

Raza Rumi

Thousands are dead and injured and millions are displaced due to the floods. The national reaction to this calamitous situation has been that the president should have cancelled his visit to the UK. The president too has not been sagacious. But the debate is frivolous and sidetracks the real issue: our sheer lack of preparedness for natural disasters and emergency management.

Five years ago, a massive-earthquake rocked Pakistan. Later, several institutions such as the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) were set up to deal with natural calamities. While it would be unfair to critique the good work done by the NDMA, it is clear that centralised authorities and relief machinery are of little use in a populous, diverse country like Pakistan.

In the last five years, as the recent floods indicate, the state has done little to galvanise and decentralise disaster preparedness and management. Between 2005 and 2010, the magnitude of natural disasters was not large enough to expose the inherent weaknesses of the emergency infrastructure. As before, Pakistanis have come forward and an unprecedented civic activism and volunteerism can be seen in reaching out to victims of the floods across the country. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Environment, North-West Frontier Province, Northern Areas, Pakistan, Zardari

7 Precepts for Life in Pakistan

(Saad Sultan from Lahore has contributed this post for the Pak Tea House. His initiative is welcome; and we are happy to add him to our list of contributors – Raza Rumi)

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The author of this article takes no responsibility for the views expressed in it.

Dear readers, I regret to have to inform you that one day you will all be dead. For this reason you must never try killing yourselves. Yes, the 1st precept for Life in Pakistan is:

Don’t Commit Suicide
In fact, you should never try doing anything that something else will, eventually, do for you. And dying lies among the many other menial processes, such as digestion and cleaning the toilet, that, as far as we’re concerned, get done by themselves. And it is up to respectable people such as ourselves to ensure that things remain that way.
Now, recent events have shown us that people who think it’s all right to commit suicide fall into two categories: those who think its all right to kill yourself as long as you take enough ordinary men down with you, and those who think it’s all right to kill yourself as long as you take enough uniformed men down with you. Needless to say, both of them are equally wrong. What’s worse is that they are infinitely more dangerous to the welfare of the living than traditional suicides, who at least have the decency to end their lives in the quiet of their homes, lying in hot baths, using fresh razor blades, and leaving behind beautifully written suicide notes, outlining the reasons for their decision, and, in some cases, even apologizing for it.
Yet it is undoubtedly the life lovers who have chosen the most courageous path. People like you, the readers of this paper, who have resolved to live out these lives of yours, even if only in relative luxury. Others have resolved to live out theirs in abject poverty: toilet cleaners and road sweepers; people without the means to even afford this paper. I laud their courage. If they weren’t so poor, they wouldn’t be as brave, and if they weren’t so brave, we wouldn’t be as rich. Relatively speaking, of course.

Thus we come to the 2nd precept of Life in Pakistan:

If you must Commit Suicide, do it without Harming those who Love Life

Dying of suicide not only causes serious damage to one’s health, but, on a more serious note, seriously damages one’s reputation as well. Of course, it can be argued that one needn’t worry about reputation once one is dead, but we shall not be considering that argument, as in our opinion, one should never consider arguments that one can’t counter. Dying of suicide committed by somebody else, on the other hand, has a completely different impact on reputation altogether. Society compensates for the fall in the perpetrator’s standing by converting his victims, even if they had been base, foul and corrupt while alive, into valorous, heroic martyrs. The wisdom of such thinking is secondary to the fact that it is the way things happen. It is thus proposed that anyone found trying to commit suicide without minimizing its effects on decent, life-loving society should be subject to the capital punishment (provided that he is alive at the time) for the attempted interference. This gives birth to the 3rd precept of Life in Pakistan:

Mind your Own Business

While it is a precept that should be taken seriously by everybody, people who watch the news should be particularly wary of it. Continue reading

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Filed under musings, Pakistan, Rights, Society