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Security State's perils for citizenry

 

By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse Apr 23, 2010

Most of the states in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that emerged in the aftermath of the post World War 11 went on to become either security states (controlled by a mighty intelligence-security apparatus), or states built on politically corrupt practices such as patronage and nepotism, with political godfathers essentially determining the fate of political associates and government functionaries.

Let us take up the two phenomenons one by one.

The Soviet Union -led East block states, for instance, had become notorious for security-intelligence apparatus that was coercive and extremely intrusive. Witch-hunt of political opponents, persecution of socio-political dissidents and a close surveillance of citizens constituted the primary focus of this apparatus. Permission and security clearance for travel abroad or for taking up jobs in the private sector, or for availing study or job opportunities abroad used to be, and are even today, obligatory.

Even under the new world order, this security-driven system based on patronage remains in practice in many countries. Pakistan is no exception either. The post 9/11 events even revived these practices in many countries, including the USA. Seen in this background, one wonders as to whether Pakistan also qualifies as a security state, and whether. The predominance of the security-intelligence in state matters-clearance of politicians, media, and key bureaucratic positions, foreign postings of diplomats, professors and officials prompts one to conclude that Pakistan indeed qualifies as a security state.

The intrusion of intelligence agencies in the clearance of academia destined for foreign postings at times jeopardizes careers of many.

Look at the clearance procedures involved in grant of licenses to radio-TV companies planning to set up channels, or to oil and gas companies, that want concessions.

Who conducts investigations that eliminate either in clearance or rejection? It is field reporters, in many cases not even graduates, working for various intelligence agencies.

The strangest part of this investigative process is the quizzing of state officials, intellectuals and academics or semi-state institutions. This also explains how security apparatus still governs issues that sound strange and bizarre, to say the least.
On the one hand the security clearance requirements and the procedures associated with it end up as intrusive tools, which harass and intimidate the incumbents.

On the other hand, those applying these tools i.e. the intelligence reporters, are usually poorly literate and less considerate to personal sensitivities of well-placed officials, academics, intellectuals and businessmen.

Questions such as what is you father’s name or what is you wife’s profession not only arouse discomfort but also at times invite smiles, if not laughter. Most of the information (in case of government employees, or those associated with semi-government and private enterprise) is available with the employers. Google and Wikipedia also provide good bit of information on prominent, well-placed, personalities.

The clearance process of these wanting to, or already in possession of F.M radio or TV is equally bizarre. It usually takes place through low-rung police and intelligence officials, who may at times self for couple of thousands, or may distort facts for not receiving any gratification. This way there is always the risk of even noble intentions getting compromised.

But the fundamental question arising out of this exercise is as to whether the security clearance of bona-fide official’s academia, intelligentsia and businessmen is necessary at all? The clearance procedures can easily jeopardize, cut short or destroy careers altogether. At times personal likes or dislikes of the interviewers, or personal preferences because of friendship or kinship can play with the careers of reputed people of integrity.

Let us now consider the other phenomenon i.e. states built on faulty political foundations.

The culture of patronage and nepotism – in states such Pakistan, Bangladesh, India serves as one of the most crucial links for the upward mobility within the party or in the profession. Whether it is the transfer, promotion or posting, nothing moves without political patronage.

The recent appointment as a prime ministerial advisor of Jamshed Dasti (who had to resign after conceding he held a fake degree), or the dozens of judges that the PPP government had appointed before the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, are just a tip of the iceberg.

A recent tour of Peshawar also entailed some startling and shocking observations. A very senior official, for instance, complained of how the ruling Awami National Party and the PPP were using party affiliations as the basic yardstick for postings, promotions and transfers.

If you don’t have a political godfather you are damned. And if you have one, you can get anywhere you want. This is how you could sum up the recent trail of postings, transfers, and promotions.

In one instance alone as many as 60 successful candidates for provincial management positions were disregarded altogether in favour of political nominees. One senior official refused to sign the nominations in to service contracts. Another officer, fresh from his pilgrimage in Mecca, obliged the “political godfathers,” and signed the political nominees in for government job.

This obviously injects frustration and dampens the moral of those government servants who are more than willing to work honestly but would also expect appreciation and recognition in the form of promotion.

Defending political appointments, one federal minister conceded privately that in a politically imperfect system you have to accommodate political appointments. And this brings us to the original question as to whether the combination of political godfathers and the guardians of a security state can really convince the citizenry of merit and justice, and motivate it to work honestly for “national interests?”

The author heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad.

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk