The post 2014 Afghanistan will not be the same as it was during the Taliban uprising in the 90s. Despite showing their presence through frequent attacks on US and NATO forces Taliban comeback is highly unlikely due to change of circumstances and global attention that Afghanistan has got during the past decade. The regional countries have much more business and security stakes in Afghanistan than the 1990s. Afghanistan has an army, constitutional government and has held two elections. Apart from peripheries; the security in central and northern areas is much more peaceful than it was during the chaos of Taliban. The people perception of Taliban in Afghanistan has changed drastically as it has in FATA. They are no more taken as saviors of Islam. However, there are questions regarding the capacity of Afghan Army, corruption and loopholes in administration.
In this context, the policy makers in Pakistan will have to come up with an integrated policy to curb extremism and radicalization in FATA. However, the policy scenario in Pakistan is mired with fragmentation; rarely have we seen an integrated policy. The recent APC concluded that militants will be engaged in peace talks. While the way the policy decision was taken; it is not conformant with any public policy framework.
In the policy scenario of Pakistan, the role of public managers is often undermined or underappreciated by both their political executives and the general public. While the term public managers includes the elite echelon of government, consisting of ministers and heads of agencies, the vast and diverse group of career public servants who assume managerial positions at various levels in public sector organizations and who play an important role are the public managers who actually implement. Unfortunately these public managers often shoulder a disproportionately large share of the public examination for failure in public sector governance then they should. If these public managers including the military operational commanders, civil servants and other stakeholders are informed by better understanding of the policy process they can overcome many of the barriers that undermine their potential for contributing to the policy process and eventually to successful peace in FATA and allover Pakistan.
The question is do policy makers have the legitimacy and resources they require in order to perform their task at a higher level of intelligence, sophistication and competence. It seems that the present policy process adopted is rife with irrationality, inconsistence and lack of coordination all of which can become major sources of tension and distress for these officials. The present peace overtures reflect that policy makers are unfamiliar with the nature and working of the policy process, which makes them unable to devise effective strategies for influencing its directions and ensuring it results in an integrated set of policy outcomes. At present, it seems as if the policy problem is due to fragmented national security policy. Policy evaluation is rarely used for most policy decisions and when it is conducted, it is motivated by narrow political considerations and thus fails to contribute to continuous policy learning.
The long tenure of public managers in the public sector for example, helps them not only sustain attention to particular policy issues but also enables them to take a longer term perspective on public policy, which political executives facing electoral and other shorter term pressures often lack. In the present scenario, the military establishment along with the political administration in FATA should have delivered a policy document to the Government for future course of action. However, the process has started at the top level when it should have started at the grass root level by the political agent or the military commander overseeing security and operations in different agencies of FATA.
In reality the public managers work in a hostile political environment which further undermines their efforts. The officers in the civil services or military establishment see themselves as delivering high quality services to maintaining the government machinery rather than contributing to policy making. Many in Pakistan see their role only as policy implementers since they feel or have been trained to think that policy making is the sole responsibility of political decision makers. The strong separation between administration and politics, with latter belonging exclusively to the realm of political executives. There is also a misperception that equates policy process with decision making, which often involve senior political executives. The policy process consists of a much broader range of activities than merely decision making. It includes setting agendas, developing alternatives, implementing decisions and evaluation of public measures. All these tasks are such that public managers can play an important and bigger role in decision making than is often realized. For example the peace process at the APC level is quiet broad and vague at the moment often deliberately so for the political reasons, leaving crucial details to be decided by public managers and military officers when implementing them.
The shortcoming in the policy fragmentation could be addressed through an action oriented framework to guide their participation in the policy framework. The framework consists of three layers. Policy functions, policy perspectives and policy competencies which public managers must understand in order to exercise their capacity to influence, create and pursue integrate policies in their spheres of activity. Policy function consist of five essential activities; agenda setting, formulation, decision making, implementation and evaluation. Policy perspectives revolve around three perspectives to guide their participation in the policy process; organizational, political and technical. The technical perspective focuses public manager’s attention on the utilitarian objective that is the greatest benefit for the largest number of people. It requires them to think analytically and systematically about the causes and consequences of policy issues as well as the likely outcome of the various policy options available to tackle them. Policy competencies requires the capacity of public managers to effectively participate in the five policy making functions for that administrative competencies like policy acumen, analytical skills and managerial skills are required. Policy acumen deals with the accumulated knowledge and experience in the policy including the understanding of key players, their key interest and their strategies and resources. This knowledge and experience forms the solid basis for judgment about policy feasibility; what will work and what will not. Analytical skills will work for diagnosing a situation and developing appropriate strategies.
It’s high time that the Government should adopt an action oriented framework and devise a policy that gets its input from the grass root level involving tribal elders, political administration and military officers. This will result into an integrated policy with achievable outcomes for peace in FATA.
The article first appeared in The Frontier Post on October 25th, 2013
The Writer is a PhD Scholar and Programme Manager at FATA Research Centre (FRC) Islamabad