By Muhammad Amin Baloch
Holding an open katchery is not a new idea with respect to Chitral. It the past, such meetings were arranged by political leaders and government officials at different places.
I remember one such forum during the initial period of Salim Khan’s ministry, held in Garam Chashma. It was attended by the then provincial minster and different line departments heads. Also a large number of citizens, PPP workers attended the katchery. Society members openly spoke about state organs carelessness, corruption and arrogance.
In response to public grievances, the department heads pledged to take harsh action against the corrupt and incompetent officials. The provincial minster had also directed the district officials to solve people issues timely. It was a good initiative. But very little was achieved due to departmental impediments.
Last year by the end of December, I had the opportunity to attend another open katchery in the community hall of Chitral. It was organized by the deputy commissioner Chitral and only one public representative was present. The assistant commissioner briefed the participants about the advantages of such a forum and said these will be held regularly.
A few days back, the deputy commissioner also held such a meeting in Booni in the company of newly-deputed DPO Chitral. Good. Open katchery has many benefits. Two most important benefits are accountability and transparency of public representatives and officials. Both these institutions are answerable to the people for all their deeds and responsibilities.
About the civil servants father of the nation had said “you are not masters but servants to the people and behave in such way.” Unfortunately, they have become masters and not servants from class four to a high profile bureaucrat. The same is about the political representatives. At the time of elections they make promises of good governance and solving people issues at the grass root levels.However, upon assuming public office they pay deaf ears to the people and only dears and nears can utilize the chairs.
It is incumbent on both the state organs to perform their duties in transparent manner keeping in view the greatest happiness of the greatest number. In Chitral line departments seem above accountability and transparency. Contracts are awarded on the basis of understanding.
A strong relationships between the line departments`staff and contractors make the schemes useless. Corruption is very common and one can get the project accomplished without a single visit by the technical staff (engineer). This kind of easy money making has made the system of contractorship (tekadari) an attracting business and every youth wants to become a contractor, provided he has strong political affiliation and sufficient bank account. The same situation is apparent in other line departments.
Imran Khan, Chairman Tahreek-e-Insaf, has also failed to deliver as it had made accountability and transparency number one slogans of his elections campaign. Therefore, it is a good thing to hold public Katchery regularly, at least on quarterly basis and should be encouraged. These kinds of meetings provide opportunities of sensitization about state organs, their responsibilities & accountability, citizens’ rights, elements of tolerance etc.
Public should be given the right opportunities to put forward their genuine issues and grievances. Criticism should be positive and reformatory. Such meetings should also be held at each tehsil headquarters of the district to have access to more people.
Political leg pulling and revenge must be avoided.However, the most important thing is action and not hollow promises by the policy makers and implementers. Unless and until proper actions are taken and policies are implemented in true spirit , these open Katchery by public representatives and district administration including police will be futile one and just be wastage of timing.