‘Meritocracy’; A better alternative to democracy
Wg Cdr (rtd) Fardad Ali Shah

‘Democracy’ as originally conceived, was a noble idea of establishing a government ‘of the people’, ‘by the people’ and ‘for the people’. Over the years this concept has been badly mutilated and as it stands today, democracy miserably fails in qualifying as the system delivering its primary objective. Even the most (relatively) progressive countries practicing democracy like the US, Britain etc could do much better with Meritocracy instead of democracy as their system.

In Pakistan the slogan of democracy has proved a total farce. This sham system as it exists today has paved the way for degeneration of institutions, rampancy of corruption, exploitation of the poor people, invitation to unholy military interventions, and promotion of disillusionment and despondency.

The fault lies in the system, because, in it, only the resourceful and the well connected are able to clinch public offices regardless of possession of requisite capabilities. Can the brightest individual having full flair for public representation but lacking financial ‘resources ever think of becoming the president of the country or an MNA or for that matter even a local councilor? It is beyond the imagination of middle class people no matter how capable they may be, to even dream of contesting elections against juggernauts supported by huge coffers and mafias which are a product of the present democratic system. For the professional politicians of today’s democracy, love for the people starts a month before elections and ends with the polling day.

So what is the answer?  The answer is simple.. It is the adoption of a new system called ‘Meritocracy’.

In this system there are no elections. Public representatives from the President down to the local councilor are selected through competitive exams specially formulated for each position. In this way equal opportunity is provided to all, regardless of his/her financial position or association with a political party.

‘Meritocracy’ is simple, practicable and fair. In the proposed system of meritocracy elaborate examinations are held for each position which should encompass all requirements for the job ,to the extent of including personality tests, psychological tests scrutinising the traits of loyalty, honesty etc to select the best person amongst the applicants.

Advantages of Meritocracy;

1. It would revolutionize how we view things. The rule of merit would trickle down to the lowest level and bring about revolutionary development in all institutions.

2. As education and capability would be the sole criteria to clinch the highest office in the country, all including the poorest would pay full attention to the education and grooming of their children as the incentive is so high. Naturally, the general standard of Education in the country would improve by default.

3. A person thus selected on Merit would also want others working under him to be selected on merit too, thus the improvement can be well imagined.

4. Because the person has been selected on merit and does not owe his position to any political dispensation, he will not succumb to pressures to breach merit or do unsuitable things.

5. The person so selected as public representative can work diligently and whole heartedly for the collective development of his area without being influenced or pressurized by ‘party workers’ or supporters who had voted for him to victory, as is a very big nuisance in today’s democratic system.

6. After expiry of the term of office, the incumbent can again appear for the competitive exam along with new contenders, and try again which means the person will have to be on his toes where merit is concerned and will have to face ever present challenge from emerging competition, or else be replaced by an even more capable person.

7. A person selected through Meritocracy, whether for the office of President of Pakistan or a local councilor in a village, would enjoy the confidence of the people purely because he has earned that position on merit and not because of any unfair advantage like belonging to a political family, having lots of money or having sponsorship of mafias, groups etc.

Pakistan has been experimenting ‘Democracy’ and ‘Militarocracy’ alternately for the last six decades. Have we reached any where? Do we hope to reach any where with this system? The answer is obviously “No”. Same pawns -only sometimes black and some times white are in play all the time. We need to change the game now.

A Paradigm shift required
Editorial, 12 June 09.

A paradigm shift in the methodology of choosing our rulers and administrators is required to meet the challenge of an ever deteriorating standard of governance and administration in our country. Democracy and Militarocracy have both been alternately tested in Pakistan since its creation, but none has borne satisfactory results. A completely new and revolutionary concept of adopting the system of ‘Meritocracy’ i.e selecting people for all public office posts eg president, Governors, Ministers, MNAs MPAs etc on the basis of merit, -posts which are presently filled through elections, is the need of the hour.

According to the proposed system, politics should be put aside and appointments of President, (no PM, CMs required), Governors, Ministers, MNAs MPAs etc should be carried out on merit. Efficient and foolproof tests can be conducted for this purpose, easily, with the help of computers, to select most competent people for the respective jobs.

According to this revolutionary proposal, advertisements should be floated for the posts of president, governors, ministers, MNAs MPAs etc at their scheduled time and any Pakistani who meets the basic laid down criteria in the constitution should be eligible to apply.

Tests, formulated by world experts and supervised by the UN, should be conducted on computers with foolproof provisions. The tests should be exhaustive and include every aspect of requirement for the job. It should also include psychological tests to check the elements of human values ie honesty, integrity, dedication etc of the individual, besides his knowledge and other requisite personality profile, capabilities etc.

The results of these tests will bring out the cream of the nation and give us the most suitable persons for the job. Why has bureaucracy in our country always had an upper hand over politicians, is because the former is a product of a process of selection on merit. Why should public office holders (politicians) not be selected according to similar criteria of merit?

Politicians making the government in the present system do not have to be capable. What we have experienced thus far is that they are either incapable or/and are too much entangled in the trivial (mostly personal) demands of their ‘supporters’ and henchmen, thus being unable to take collective, bold, independent and healthy decisions in the interest of the country or even their respective constituency. This is the root cause of our problems and has never been paid attention to.

Capable people selected on merit after thorough grilling through elaborate tests, would in turn themselves promote meritocracy at all levels and the result would be a revolution in the way we think and manage our affairs, ushering in stability and progress at an unimaginable pace.

After having deeply studied the concept of ‘Meritocracy’ as put forward in the above write-ups, I’ve come to the conclusion that his is the most realist and just system to run the world today. Considering our own  country if public representatives are selected through open competition based on capabilities instead of elections we would be having capable leaders.

The beaurocracy which is formed through open competition always has an upper hand over the public representatives and they make a short work of them when ever they want . We want our public representatives to be superior to the berocrats in capabilities and this can only happen if ‘Meritocray’ is introduced..

Going through the history of ‘Meritocracy’ I found it was successfully followed in somewhat similar form by Confucius, Chengiz Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, all of whom are examples of success in their own fields. In the present day it is being followed by Singapore which makes the tiny miny state a global economic power and an island of stability.

I strongly feel we should go for the system of ‘Meritocracy’ in our country without second thoughts.–(Muhammad Asif, Chitral 23 Sept 10)

Comment 2
I would like to support the noble idea of not only meritocratic political system for the country but also educational, economic and social system based on meritocracy. If a system provides equal opportunities in terms of quality it leads to justice in all walks of life.

Our current system seems to be based on percepts that ultimately produce germs of avenge and revenge and meritocracy is not even considered in it.  I think that the system of meritocracy is the very foundation of justice upon which the edifice of state can be built on the idea of Aristotle. His philosophy of justice has two kinds; Corrective and Distributive. Corrective justice is one that is implemented to reform or correct the wrongdoers while Distributive justice awards or provides opportunities to good and talented people on the basis of their performance or achievements.

I would say with conviction  that meritocracy not democracy is the best revenge from all wrong going-ons  in Pakistan.–Alhaj Muhammad Khan, Charun Chitral, 24 Sept 10

Comment 3 –(in poetry)
manipulated we have been,
by this word; democracy,
even though it always was,
well disguised autocracy,
for there has never been to date,
much except hypocrisy,
with no emancipation,
neither real theocracy,
corrupt, unfaithful governance,
an exploiting bureaucracy,
so far our leaders have excelled,
in nothing but Kleptocracy,
while the poor burn themselves,
enjoys, the aristocracy,
this nation has suffered enough,
its time for Meritocracy.
–Zeenat Khan, Islamabad, 27 Sept 10.

Comment 4
How will you judge the following qualities through written competitive examination?
Even a genius will fail to lead a country if he lacks the above two qualities which we need at this moment. Shaukat Aziz, who was my class fellow, was academically outstanding throughout his life. What sort of reputation did he leave behind? —–I have been platoon commander, term commander and battalion commander at the Pakistan Military Academy and I know that the above two qualities can be judged through interaction and rubbing shoulders together. The above two are absolute qualities; one can not quantify these. Either one has these qualities or does not have.
Pray that we get a born leader like our founding father. Such people emerge through their own steam. No competitive examination is needed for their selection.
Spend maximum on EDUCATION so that the people do not waste their votes. Second most important is accountability and the third independent judiciary. Selection through examinations has to be followed by grooming in an institution which should prepare the selected lot for leading our country and weed out those lacking integrity during the grooming period: otherwise you will have many more genius like Shaukat Aziz ruining, not running, the country. Do we have such grooming arrangement in our Country? Would the examination be in Urdu OR English—- who will sort out the language issue? Would the competition mentioned ibid be just? Problems are enormous. Let us concentrate ONLY on education—- similar for all. It will take care of the rest of the issues. May have to wait for 20 – 30 years to see good days=====if not me: my children who I am sure would do far better than me. For the achievement of this objective we MUST continue to have armed forces as potent force which now has to defend us from all four sides and vertically —and domestically. –Brigadier (r) Tarik Niazi, Islamabad, 01 Oct 10.

Comment 5
Reference to the questions raised by Brig Niazi, I would say that the basic traits of honesty and integrity can be evaluated through psychological tests. What a man becomes  later on cannot be ensured in any system. In the present democratic system the chances of winning elections by a corrupt person is directly proportional to the quantum of his corruption because in this business ‘money makes the mare go’ and honest money can never be enough to finance election spendings. In the ‘Meritocracy’ system one does not need money to become a public representative. Only and only capability and merit matter.

Regarding the case of Shaukat Aziz displaying moral bankrupcy, it must be remembered that he got elected as prime minister through the democratic process. Had there been ‘Meritocracy’,  there would have been people with not only more capabilities but also better moral fiber as they would have undergone psychological tests besides aptitude tests for the job at the time of selection.

Field experience may not be the ultimate requirement for a leader as we see present day leaders with life long experience in the field of politics, but tainted with ineptitude and corruption. The Quaid’s example cannot be quoted as a  general rule.

Concentrating on Education is perhaps the best thing that can happen to this nation, but with the present democratic system it has not happened, although every one acknowledges the importance of it. In Meritocracy every person would by default be struggling to give his children the best education because of the sublime importance it has in the system. We need not wait for 20 to 30 years. Meritocracy can show instant results.

The role of armed forces is well defined in the constitution which it should stick to. As a matter of fact the army will not need to interfere in the affairs of public governance, in a Meritocratic system. –Fardad Ali Shah, 03 Oct 10

Comment 6
I appreciate comment No 3 because of its poetic style, as poetry is an impressive way of communicating one’s thoughts and feelings. I agree with comments No 4 to the extent that education can play the most determining influence in solving our problems including the one related to political leadership and for that we may have to wait for decades. I tend to disagree with the writer that competitive examination can not determine the suitability of a person because as claimed by the writer that through competitive examinations the qualities such as integrity and leadership can not be determined and that it can be judged by living together and working shoulder to shoulder in different situations as the writer has experienced the same during his days in PMA.

It opens up two questions of Herculean nature: (1 — If competitive examinations can not determine one’s suitability in terms of integrity and leadership( the two most important traits for societal peace and progress) then Pakistan must have to think about changing its mode of recruitment of bureaucrats through superior services examination because ultimately it is the civil servants who are the permanent ruling class of any country including the developed countries and that a country can hardly afford a class of permanent bureaucrats whose suitability in terms of integrity and leadership qualities had not properly been evaluated.

The second question is that this country has been led by leaders educated and trained by different institutions such as PMA Kakul, Edwardians, Grammarians, Atchisonians, Harvardian and Oxfordians etc but all have failed to give this country a transparent system that can ensure good governance and improve the living condition of teeming millions. The one million question will be to find out where lies the hidden psychic pollution that has perverted the entire system.

One way could be that through legislation all political parties should be bound to furnish a list of prospective candidates for elections in the ratio of four persons to one seat and the nominated candidates should be tested through competitive examination through a separate institution like Political Commissar or Political Public Service Commission. After competitive examination the list of successful candidates should be forwarded to respective political parties with the condition that the parties will award party tickets to only those who have qualified the competitive examinations. Just an idea! Any way the merits of education and competitive testing can hardly be underestimated for public office of some importance. –Mir Wazir Khan, Awi, Chitral, 04 Oct 10.

Comment 7
Disagreement with an idea should always be welcomed for understanding an issue and to make it practically sound before it is floated at national level. I would like to reiterate the following points for general discussion:

Will the selection of President of Pakistan through written examination and other personality tests, FOR THE PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN, by the United Nations, be acceptable to the Pakistani people? What about the fundamental rights of the people as citizens of Pakistan? Are we also changing the Constitution of Pakistan? If so, how much time will be required to change the constitution and who will approve it in the absence of the representatives of the people —- hope not the UNO or a care-taker government? Legal advice is essential. How many years we had to wait for our present constitution?

What are the eligibility requirements, the level of education etc, for various positions? And would examinations be in English or Urdu?

Would justice be done to those who are from remote areas and with Urdu medium background? Or the suggested system is only for elite class studying in English medium schools. We have first to make our education system uniform? How much time would this require?

I can go on and offer more points provided disagreements are welcomed. Presently the discussion is emotional and the whole issue has been confused and NOT understood. Someone quoted example of Singapore where literacy rate is 96.3% and is smaller in size than any of our districts.

REMEMBER, Meritocracy is NOT a FORM of government; it is a SYSTEM of government. Please try to understand the difference between the two. Public administration and civil service reforms should be based on merits or meritocracy. It does not involve formation of a government i.e. selection of president, MNAs and MPAs through competitive exams.

LOOK, in two years we have independent judiciary, free media and are eliminating FAKE degree holder MNAs/MPAs, the next election will bring about many new changes. Slowly we will advance towards true democracy like USA, UK and India who took many years to reach the present stage.–Brig (r) Tarik Niazi, Islamabad, 01 Oct 10.

Comment 8
The discussion “either DEMOCRACY or MERITOCRACY” on the one hand may sound too relevant to the depressed Pakistani public, who for the last over six decades have been waiting for some miracles to happen in various walks of life including politics, but on the other, it seems an absurd idea where two concepts of dissimilar connotations are being compared. A discussion like comparing strengths and weaknesses of say a piece of land and the crops it grows may lead to no worthwhile conclusion from the comparison perspective as both the piece of land and the crops it grows being closely related are unlike phenomenon. One of the worthy writers Brigadier (R) Niazi very rightly pointed out this divergence.

Going through the view of worthy writers it seems that our ideas of running the affairs of a complex state like Pakistan are over simplified ones, where through introducing a pen-pencil test for politicians, like the one administered for admission in professional colleges, we aspire bringing miracles in national affairs. What a naive idea? This country is producing professionals like doctors, engineers, lawyers, educationists, bankers, management experts, and above all the mighty bureaucrats basing on well thought out and professionally administered examination and evaluation system. Can we claim that running the educational institutions and the hospitals, constructing buildings and bridges, managing the national enterprises like PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills, etc, etc are all success stories?

To me there is a big NO. Consider another aspect. Is the written constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan all too faulty in providing us the guiding principles to move in the right direction whereas unwritten conventions are deemed so sacred that for centuries the Great Britain is successfully following them? Is democracy as a form of government so absurd that it has put Pakistan in an absolute mess, whereas the same form of government is a success story in Scandinavian countries, or even in our neighboring India to some extent. Even there are multiples examples of Islamic countries which neither are following western democracy nor conducting competitive examinations for the rulers, but are performing quite well in at least providing material comforts to their people. One may disagree with my idea on plausible reasons but as a matter of fact Arab countries despite practicing monarchy are more stable welfare states for their people. One may find too contrasting examples of successes and failures or strengths and weaknesses of a particular form of government. Therefore, narrating strengths of one form as superior to the other may not lead to a logical winding up, as a social phenomenon is never absolute like a scientific formula.

What is Next? It is not only the particular chosen form of government that can originate change in a nation rather it is the collective will of the people and strength of the social institutions that can provide the kind of fabric needed for a positive change. It is not the law only but the “rule of law” that ensures discipline in the society.
Take the example of our most trusted neighboring country China, which though got liberated later than our beloved Pakistan, however now is a potential world super power. What made that country so great and the best example for the world? In a piece of writing I had read that in China a thief is punished by shooting on head and the dead body is handed over to the relatives only after the cost of the bullet is paid to the government. In President Ayub Khan’s era a Chinese delegation visited one of the major Complexes in Pakistan and found the roof seeping out. Apologetic Pakistani host tried to explicate that the Complex was recently constructed. One of the members of the Chinese delegation while smiling said that in the beginning roofs leaked in their country as well but after shooting one of the contractors they never experienced it in any building again. A newly constructed bridge on a river washed away with the first ever flood resulting in death of many Chinese people. The leadership called concerned engineers and workers on the spot who tried to explain their reasons while placing onerous of responsibility on others. The leadership after very politely listening to the views called firing squad and shoot all the engineers and workers on the spot. It is said that afterwards neither a bridge was washed away nor any building collapsed. Chinese workers do protest but not in Pakistani style, as a protest they work for 24 hours a day. The father of modern China, Mao Ze Tung, advised the Chinese people to commemorate his death anniversary not by closing down their factories and production units but by working for two additional hours than the specified time.

We in Pakistan are faced with the dilemma of character failure, which is getting even more strengthened with every passing day. We need stringent measures to correct ourselves, our society and what ever form of government we may have. It is not one or the other form of government but the Chinese examples of accountability may perhaps put us on the right direction. –Rashida Khan, NUML, Islamabad, 06 Oct 10.

Comment 9
I agree with Rashida to the extent that implementation of any system correctly could turn it useful and misuse of even the best system could fail it. However we need to adopt a system where misuse of it becomes difficult even if someone tries to misuse it. Meritocracy fits in here. The need for ruthless accountability of which apt examples have been quoted is the underlying factor which will determine the success of the ‘Meritocracy’ system.  Sound and uniform Education system , dispensation of timely and transparent justice, rise of merit and ability in the society,  all will come about  after we get rid of the murkiness of present-day politics and present political system where “A politician is a person who shakes your hand before getting elected and your confidence after”.–Muhammad Asif, Chitral 08 Oct 10

Comment 10
MERITOCRACY or DEMOCRACY, the incisive comments by a number of worthy writers on the subject spurred me on to join the fray of the lively debate. Holding such kind of discussion is necessary to have a tantalizing glimpse of the future and to wake up the nation from the deep slumber. Moreover, this kind of discussion always yields positive outcome.

The proponents of both meritocracy and democracy may have cogent arguments to underpin their contention, but in my humble view, it would make hardly any difference whether we follow meritocracy or democracy as both will remain susceptible to manipulation given the kind of political magi we have. What really matters is how to start a new beginning with a clean slate eliminating those who have the capability to play havoc even with the best conceivable system.

Neither democracy nor meritocracy nor any other system can deliver unless the country is purged of the corrupt elements that have been ruling and robbing the country for the last six decades with no qualms under the guise of so-called (civilian) democrats and democracy loving military dictators. This country has experienced both types of rule—democracy and dictatorship in succession.

Those who come to power with the force of the ballot start behaving like a monarch and those who snatch power with the force of bullet masquerade themselves as real lovers of democracy. The outcome is an absolute fiasco that has sunk the country deeper and deeper into political and economic morass. What we really need today is an Iranian( Khomeini )or Bolshevik type revolution.

The country desperately needs a leader who is ruthless and merciless, and does not fall prey to any political expediency. We need a leader only with one-point agenda—–ruthless and indiscriminate accountability. He should have no reconciliatory approach at all because the nation has experienced the devastating effects of the so-called reconciliation which General (r) Pervez Musharraf has imposed on this nation in the form of the much controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Both the originator and the beneficiaries of this ordinance must be held accountable. It is a misnomer to call it as National Reconciliation Ordinance.

Practicing meritocracy is not a simple proposition. Until and unless our society undergoes a massive metamorphosis, it would be too naïve even to think of meritocracy as a practicable system because the old political gurus operating with diminished responsibility have the capability to manipulate it to their advantage quite successfully. They know the art of playing to the gallery and exploiting the weaknesses of the poor gullible masses. They simply dissimulate when in contact with the public.
Let us clean the Augean stables first and then take a fresh start if we want to see this country rise to the new heights. –Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan, COMSATS University, Abbottabad Campus, 10 Oct 10.

Presentation on Meritocracy vs Democracy

Chitral .. A presentation on ‘Meritocracy as an alternative to democracy’ was held in Chitral. The presentation was largely attended by Political leaders, intellectuals, educationists, Doctors, lawyers and civil society members. The popularity of the subject of the presentation can be gauged from the fact that according to the president press club it was the largest event so far held at the press club both in terms of quality and quantity.

Presenting his proposed transfer from the existing electoral democracy to the new system of Meritocracy, Wg Cdr (r) Fardad Ali Shah first compared the two systems and counted the blessings of meritocracy. He quoted Singapore as an example which has a per capita income of 61000 USD. At the time when Lee Kuan Yew took over the Presidentship and introduced the system of Meritocracy, Singapore’s per capita income was only 1100 USD.  The present per capita income of Pakistan is a mere 5500 USD. The magical transformation of Singapore from an ordinary outland with an area less than half that of Chitral District, was due to the magic of managing it through Meritocracy, he said.

Elaborating his proposed system of government he said the basic logic behind it is to eliminate the electoral system of voting by individuals to form a government and replacing it with appropriate persons selected through competitive exams tailor made for the respective positions. He said just like introducing the NTS system of selection in KP has given a chance to the poor but capable persons to get into government jobs, similarly the system of Meritocracy will give a chance to the poor but capable people to become public representatives right from the president of the country down to the village Councillor level.

He said Meritocracy is in full conformity with the Golden principles of Islam as much as it is in conformity with the principles of socialism. A best of both the worlds system. a person selected through Meritocracy will not be detracted and blackmailed by political forces and can perform his duties whole heatedly.

He clarified that a strong accountability system is the pillar of the new dispensation and the accountability institution should be parallel to the president, not under him. This institution should have it’s authoritative offices down to the district level to keep an eye on performance of persons appointed on positions through Meritocracy.
Wg Cdr Fardad said with full conviction that Meritocracy is the system of the future that will replace electoral democracy world over. It is only a matter of time. Let Pakistan be the pioneer of this new benevolent system for the world, he said. .. CN report, 24 Aug 2017

Definition of Democracy