Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to completely overhaul the governance systems of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the centre during a televised speech to civil servants on Sunday, which followed a high-level meeting in Lahore.
“There is a dire need to fix the way the police works and to depoliticise bureaucracy. Merit needs to be brought in and laws need to be practiced in letter and spirit,” he stressed.
“Never again, during any other government’s tenure, will you be given the freedom to do your job professionally,” he said.
In the address, he urged civil servants to value the freedom the PTI government will be providing them and not let it go to waste. He assured them that their work will not be interferred with and they will face “no pressure to engage in any wrongdoing whatsoever”.
Referring to the police, he said: “When the institution of police is politicised, it ceases to remain professional. When police starts taking sides, people are no longer willing to place their trust in it.”
He said Pakistan, in the 1960s, had been an exemplary nation where meritocracy thrived “but it was brought down due to politicisation and lateral entities”.
The task now, he explained, was to reverse this direction the nation had been steered towards. He called on civil servants to help him in this initiative.
PM Khan cautioned, however, that the authority being given to civil servants came with added responsibility.
He said he was “very hurt that a police officer and two bureaucrats publicised what should have been a matter that goes up their chain of command.”
He was referring to the much publicised Pakpattan ‘incident’ which had resulted in the transfer of the district police officer for alleged ‘misconduct’.
“Which government allows such a thing to take place? The IG should have been approached or the chief secretary,” the PM remarked, visibly irked as he further stressed the need for depoliticising the bureaucracy.
Issuing a final warning, the PM made clear that such ‘politicisation’ of the state’s inner workings will never again be tolerated.
“If such a thing occurs again, [which seems to be] based on some [political] agenda, I assure you the people involved will not be left off the hook and will be dealt with very strictly,” he said.
“This is simply an abuse of powers granted by the government [for you] to do good,” he said.
He said that ‘Naya Pakistan’ entails a new mindset and a new way of thinking, and expressed confidence that the nation would surpass the heights he believes it had reached in the ’60s.
“We will strengthen you and you will strengthen the nation,” he said, issuing a call of action to inspire civil servants to serve the people they are tasked with servicing.
“You have to keep your doors open and really listen to the people … so that people walk away satisfied simply because someone listened to them,” he explained.
He said that nationwide complaint cells would also be introduced, including one in the PM House where he will be regularly monitoring performance so that the government can respond in a timely manner to the people’s needs and bring an improvement in their lives.
“I request all police officials to take ownership and personally monitor their police stations so that the common man is not slighted against and justice is served” he said.
Good governance equals investment
The PM said that Pakistan’s problems all largely boil down to poor governance. He said that if governance is improved, Pakistan can secure major investment from abroad.
“I have just come back from a tour of UAE. We did not go there begging but to ask for funds. Their condition always is that our governance be improved and red tape reduced.”
He said that that Pakistan’s foremost priority should lie with improving governance, not only to fix internal deficiencies but to also create a more welcoming environment for investment which Pakistan sorely needs.
“Pakistan has great geo-strategic importance in the region. The biggest market right now, China, lies right to our north. India, if our relations with them improve, then they are the world’s second-biggest market.”
“I do hope that this arrogance that the Indian leadership has [displayed] goes away. They have this misconception … when we reach out for friendship it is because we know that if our relations improve, the sub-continent has a real chance of defeating poverty.
“Our gesture should never be misconstrued as weakness. We are a nation that will never take pressure from anyone, be it a global power, lying down,” the premier said.