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Implementing Public Policy in Pakistan

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By Tariq Mahmood Awan – Implementing Public Policy in Pakistan

A state is the people’s general will; thus, public life is critical to the affairs of the state and society. Instead, public law is the supreme law of the land to ensure the public interest. Public interest drives all public legislation, delegated legislation, rules, regulations, policies and guidelines. Then, public policy is a central tool for implementing the public interest. In coded societies, such as Pakistan, it is critical to frame policies by aligning them with the constitution, legislation and delegated legislation because article 199 empowers the courts to have an executive review.

Public policy is a set of guidelines, approaches, procedures and strategies for public interests. Public means ” of government” and dealing with all governmental organizations and institutions. Public policy is executive legislation, thus not substantive legislation. Therefore, it must correspond to the legislation and principles of the constitution. The primary obligation of drafting a legal policy is to ensure the implementation of the lawful alignment. Most public policies in Pakistan fail because they need legal alignment. Public policies in Pakistan must take their legal life either from legislation or rules of business. Articles 99 and 139 of the constitution provide the federal and provincial governments with the constitutional power to frame rules and thus draft policies according to the objectives of the public organizations. Moreover, legislation is the primary legal force for drafting policies.

Public policies are critical for the state and society’s social, cultural, administrative, economic and financial development. Public policy is the most flexible legal process for executing the objectives of a public organization. As it involves the public and collective interest, it must target the public interest at large. The processes of public policy are also vital for the objectives. To begin with, the defining aim of the policy is critical for the layout of the policy. Clarity on the objectives is vital. The definition of public policy for a particular public organization sets the tone for qualitative public policy, followed by alternative models and structures. Policy formulation, adoption, implementation and evaluation are also crucial for achieving the objectives of a public policy.

Policy formation is relatively easy, as public organizations hire professionals to formulate it. Hence, public and private professionals generally can develop public policy covering legal, technical, administrative and managerial aspects. However, political and bureaucratic interest is the most extensive public policy challenge. Most of the time, the political and bureaucratic interests outshine the public interests. Pakistan hardly has a public policy that primarily targets the public interest. Therefore, Public organizations must formulate public policies in the Public’s greater interest.

However, the real issue is the implementation of public policies. It is political governance in Pakistan; therefore, it is critical to have political consistency in implementing policies, guidelines and regulations. Political interests must not compromise the public interest in implementing public policies. Then the other primary issue in implementing public policy is the capacity crisis of public organizations. This capacity crisis consists of two primary elements: organizational and human resource crises. The structure of public organizations is conservative and does not meet the requirement of the technological structures of modern public organizations worldwide. The coded law, operations, procedures, processes and executions should be easy, public-friendly, and have technological applications. Technology, rather superior technology, is the way forward for public organizations in Pakistan. The administrative transformation of the public organizations shall ensure better implementation of the public policy frameworks in Pakistan. Hence, administrative reforms are critical for the functionality of public organizations in Pakistan.

The other fundamental reformation is to enhance the capacity of Public human resources. General cader services are unable to run specialized public organizations. Therefore, public organizations require specialized administrators to run the specialized functions. Specialized services shall enhance service delivery and ensure organizational autonomy and devolution vital for public governance and implementation. Then resource allocation is also critical for implementing a public policy. If the nature of the policy is developmental, it is critical to frame fluent and transparent financial structures. The structuralization of public policy is imperative to the objectives of a public policy. Hence, there must place simple and fluent administrative execution plans.

Moreover, the time frames are vital for executing public policies. Therefore, processes must be easy. Public organizations work mutually; therefore, it is essential that all organizations involved must meet the time frames of their tasks and obligations. Most of the time, the finance-providing public organizations take so much time that it becomes a difficult task for the parent public organization to executive the public policies. Therefore, developing autonomous public organizations independent of other public organizations is ingenious. However, the idea of the autonomy of public organizations is always obstructed by general cadre services, which control almost all top positions of federal, provincial and local public organizations. The abolishment of general cadre services and the development of autonomous public organizations is critical for implementing public policies.

The biggest challenge to implementing public policy in Pakistan is the elite interest. All public policy processes, including formulation, alteration, adoption and execution, are done to safeguard the elite interests. If public interest becomes supreme, there is a way forward to implement public interest policies. Most public policy professionals argue that the system’s capacity is so limited that it can neither formulate nor enforce public policies. Then, it is a valid argument, as public sector organizations face severe administrative and capacity crises. However, the reason is secondary; the primary reason is the protection of elite interests in the formulation and execution of public policies. Hence, it is imperative to formulate public policies in the greater interestest of the Public. Legal, administrative, technical, professional, and technological aspects of public policy can be acquired; the most challenging task is to implement the public interest. Therefore, the rule of law, public accountability and performance evaluation are vital for executing Pakistan’s public policies.

Lastly, public organizations in Pakistan require restructuring. Then, it is not only the obligation of the government to implement them. It is instead a commitment of the people to get policies implemented. Therefore, it is dire to reform the whole public governance system covering administrative structures, coded law, and operations to enforce public policies in Pakistan.

The writer is a civil servant and heads a research society on administrative federalism. He tweets at @PMScivilservant and can be reached at

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