Ministers’ helplessness against bureaucracy
The way members of the Gilgit-Baltistan cabinet expressed their helplessness before the bureaucracy during the session of the Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly fully exposed ad laid bare the claims being repeatedly made by the government about the transfer of powers from Islamabad to the elected representatives of the region.
During the session of the house, the speaker, Fida Ali Nashad, had to pass a ruling directing the ministers to make their respective secretaries bound to follow and implement their orders, saying the government officials were working under them and due to their laxity public welfare projects got stuck up. He also said that if any secretary does not follow the directions of the minister concerned the minister should lodge a complaint with the chief minister or the chief secretary so that he can be removed from the post.
Speaking on the occasion deputy speaker Jaffar Ullah said that in June 2015 the budget was passed and about Rs4 billion development funds were allocated to the members of the house but so far the money has not been released to the lawmakers. He said that due to the negligence of the officials concerned, the annual development plan (ADP) could not be prepared and there are chances that the allocated budget would lapse at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. He said the planning department was full of incompetent officials and action should be taken against them.
Minister for works Dr Iqbal said that the preparation of the ADP was the job of the planning department and if there was any laxity on part of the officials concerned, action should be taken against them. He said the secretary planning had been negligent in carrying out his duties while the minister have no powers, demanding that the secretary should be summoned to the house and asked about the delay in the preparation of the ADP.
Shah Baig on the occasion said that if the ministers are unable to get official works done through their respective secretaries they should resign and go home.
But with all this said on the floor of the house, is there anything left to believe that the so-called autonomy and self-governance system has any semblance of representation and independence? The helplessness expressed by the bureaucracy on the floor of the house made it crystal clear that Gilgit-Baltistan is still being governed by the bureaucracy led by the chief secretary as the agent of the ministry of Kashmir affairs in Islamabad. So the claims that powers were transferred to Gilgit-Baltistan with the introduction of the autonomy order of 2009 and the area got the powers equal to all the four provinces of Pakistan should be laid to rest now. During the session of the house, the minister for local government surprised the members when he said that he never knew that the secretary local government worked under him. He said he was thinking that he (minister) works under the secretary. This is very shameful that the minister is so helpless and being an elected member of the house with the portfolio of a minister cannot exert his power and even a secretary is not ready to follow his orders. If the minister had uttered these words in a sarcastic way it is even more worrisome. At least there is something troublesome or things are going not in a proper directions.
Though the speaker asked the ministers to exert their powers and even if they are still unable to get things done they should lodge complaints against the officers with the chief minister or the chief secretary. But again can one expect that the chief minister would be in a position to take the officers to task or the chief secretary would go against his comrades o the requests of the members of the house who he knows very well have neither powers nor the courage to do anything. The way a former secretary planning humiliated the whole house is still fresh in the minds of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. The legislative assembly even passed a resolution against the secretary and demanded his transfer but nothing happened. This not only showed the utter weakness of the government and the chief minister but also exposed the tall claims of those who have been feeling pride in the introduction of the current system since 2009 as the emancipation of the people of the whole Gilgit-Baltistan.
Is there any change in the way the area has been ruled by the bureaucracy since decades. There is no change at all as the elected representatives have even no powers like the union council of Pakistan. The expression of helplessness by the ministers has also exposed the powers of the chief minister and it is time he stood up to the situation and put things on track by tightening the noose around the government officers. If the chief minister and the ministers as well as the elected members did not realize their responsibilities to exert their powers the government officers are not going to offer their powers to them in a platter.
There was also a committee formed to give more powers to the provincial government but after a few sessions it died of its own death without even offering some suggestions. But the house should also exert its powers and should understand the necessity of becoming the voice of the people of the region otherwise things would remain the same as they were decades ago.