Meritocracy is a must

There cannot be two opinions on the preference of meritocracy in public life and governance. The decadence of society is due to nepotism and patronage which, over time, fuel unrest, prejudice and incompetence. Thus, Prime Minister Imran Khan is well within his rights as he calls for a merit-based society and ignores the conventional bureaucratic ladder of seniority. In matters of delivery and professionalism, there is no doubt that merit should triumph and that is how social mobility would play out. But that’s easier said than done. Our society is a hierarchical and patriarchal society, and the laws we follow to this day are not only outdated but also quite inorganic. To establish merit in such an environment, the upside-down pyramid must be redone, and the way forward is through evolutionary reforms.

There is substance in the proposal, transmitted by the Prime Minister, that the heads of state institutions should be appointed on the basis of merit. Moreover, they should be the expert on the subject they would be mandated to deal with. Obviously, this expertise would come with seniority in service and going through the process of trials and tribulations. But again, seniority should not be the only criterion. Landmark decisions made in service careers, initiative, and honesty and selflessness should form the basis of merit. That is why many in the country to this day lament the application of the quota system and special consideration on the basis of regionalism. This may be a necessity for a time – until and unless that population is relieved of their backwardness, but not forever.

The same goes for the Irrational Curriculum and Test Format for Civilian Higher Services. People with strange backgrounds and alien credentials land jobs and departments that are Greek to them. And then they hold the reins until retirement. So how can skill and merit be fashionable? In calling for a merit-based society, the fulcrum of reform should be levels of education, followed by the establishment of a decorum that values ​​judgmental bureaucracy rather than push- feathers on the regulations. Nurturing insight, wisdom and civility is the way to uphold merit in society. It’s time to take action.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd2022.

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