better alternate to democracy
(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
'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
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.
Relevant reading material on
A Paradigm shift required
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
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
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
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'
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.