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Pakistani Fetish For Technocrats, A LUMS Teacher Explains

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Hassan Javid, a political science professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences explains the Pakistani fetish for technocrats or technocratic set up in a twitter thread.

Javid’s Twitter thread comes as the government of the day has already filled up multiple government positions with technocrats. Former finance minister Asad Umar was replaced by Abdul Hafeez Sheikh as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister. Sheikh is a seasoned technocrat and has been associated with the World Bank for quite a while.

Javid says that most of the elected representatives are “irredeemably corrupt and hopelessly incompetent”.

Javid explains how un-elected experts might be better at policy-making through their training and specialised expertise.

Javid attempts to link the rationale behind a technocratic setup towards an authoritarian rule, such that it may be for the greater good or ‘national interest’. If a leader is free from constraints imposed by various sections of society, which usually happens in a democratic setup, he or she may perform better. But again, does that performance come at the behest of undermining democratic credentials.

In the latter part of his Twitter thread, Javid cites examples from regional models such as that of South East Asia. What Javid adds is that despite the success of such models, it is important to note that they come with a specific historical context.

He raises several questions which are quite relevant in the modern day scenario despite the model of governance.

Why would a dictatorial leader be ‘impartial’? What does that even mean in a governance context? Why would they and their experts not be swayed by ideology and specific interests? How would they be held accountable?

These questions particularly point towards the ability of a democratic leader or any other leader to make the ‘best decisions’. Why is it so that decisions without democratic consultation may be better, he wonders. This assumption might prove out to be wrong at some point in time.

He tends to draw a rationale behind a state’s capacity which might remain stagnant due to a dysfunctional setup. Despite the reformative process, the capacity of a state cannot be changed or as Javid mentions ‘transformed’ in one go.

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In an attempt to explain the inherent flaw in a dictatorial regime which by far superseded all democratic standards, Javid says that dictatorial governments with bad institutions will inevitably deliver sub-optimal outcomes.

Javid’s argument might be linked to the era of then Army Chief and President General Musharaf who had brought on a considerable number of technocrats in his government.

To argue for democracy, Javid compares outcomes of a dictatorial regime with that of a democratic setup.

To conclude, Javid refers to a number of newly formed councils the incumbent government has constituted or is willing to constitute. Such councils are an example of non-democratic consultations or processes.

“No institution has a monopoly on defining or protecting the ‘national interest’ or on knowledge and information”, Javid added, questioning the notion of national interest and how it may be served with bypassing parliament.

As Javid says, maybe ‘it’s time to give democracy a chance to develop without interference.’

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