Blurred lines

OVER time, the establishment has made so much ingress in the civilian domain that it is becoming more and more difficult to draw a line between the two. Recently, the National Database and Registration Authority and the National Accountability Bureau, which deal mainly with civilians` affairs, were handed over to a serving and a retired army man, respectively, to control. Now, the caretaker government also wants officers from the Pakistan Army Medical Corps to head two state-run hospitals in Islamabad. The Ministry of National Health Services says the decision is in the `best interest of the patients and health sector`. The two hospitals are reported to be suffering from a truancy problem: doctors, paramedics, and other staff often don`t turn up at work. `Only an army officer will be able to enforce discipline,` one senior health ministry official told this publication. But these are public hospitals, not military ones: why should military officers tell civilian doctors how to do their jobs? There is a host of well-run institutions in Pakistan that are capably managed by civilians, and there is no reason why PIMS and Polyclinic or, for that matter, NAB and Nadra cannot be too. The armed forces` discipline and organisation are admirable, but the country is going to be better served if other institutions and their people are also given enough space to emulate these qualities on their own. Instead of being handed over to military control, these institutions should be helped to grow. Some bad precedents set a long time ago put us on the trajectory of political evolution that has culminated in the `hybrid` model of governance we see in vogue today. There is a broad consensus that the steady erosion of Pakistan`s civilian institutions is what has rendered the country unable to progress socially or economically. The solution lies not in giving the military the steering wheel, but in building public institutions` capacity to deal with the challenges they face.

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