Meritocracy is injustice

NomanThere were five friends somewhere in one of the provinces of Pakistan. They all were trying to get employment in the government sector, owing to the fact that there is no other source of employment in that province. They were highly educated and enlightened, however they were unemployed. Eventually two of them got a reputable job in the government sector while the rest were still searching for jobs. Now the one who got a job was constantly boasting about the meritocracy of the system. But the other one was not convinced with the whole idea of meritocracy. The question which constantly resounded in his mind was that how it could be meritocracy and even justice, when I got employment and my brothers in faith and blood are still jobless. Therefore to his own satisfaction, he tried to resolve the riddle through tracing the compatibility of meritocracy with justice in Pakistan. On his journey, he found answers to his question and the findings are explained in the author’s language.

There are various nationalities that makes up the geographical union namely Pakistan. The inequalities in between or among the nationalities can be gauged through studying the poverty index in the various federating units. FATA, Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are at the top, on the contrary Sindh has the decent position and Punjab has the minimum level of poverty. The reason is the presence of industries in Punjab and to an extent in Sindh. Now the question is why the industries didn’t develop in the other parts of the country?

The answer is simple the people at the helm of affairs viz. establishment were/are insincere with industrialization process. In 1950, PIDC (Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation) was established. It was assigned to perform two functions. Firstly, to establish industries where the investors were shy to invest and when it starts functioning then handed it over to the private hands. Secondly, its function was to develop the underdeveloped areas through establishing industries.

It set up 95 industrial units that were only in the provinces which had the upper hands at the helm of affairs. The rest of the provinces were neglected. The pretense might be presented that it was based on the basis of population. However, the population of the then EAST PAKISTAN was greater than the WEST PAKISTAN, yet the industries were set up in the particular areas of WEST PAKISTAN. Henceforth, the argument is baseless for a cogent discourse. Now the compatibility of Justice with meritocracy in Pakistan is quite difficult to correlate.

It could not be meritocracy or Justice when one ethnic community is deliberately over represented in the policy circles owing to the quota system. For example In CSS (Central Superior Services), Punjab has the quota of 50 per cent. This is being perpetuated in the guise of justice that the majority of the population should be the sole criterion for the holding of offices at the upper echelon. So where is meritocracy then, when the quota is in place in favor of one or the other community? Although, I do agree that the essence of quota system is not wrong, but in Pakistan it is employed for exploitation.

FATA, being the poorest area of Pakistan, has the least quota in the government services. Despite the fact that there are more than 10 million tribal, yet they are put in the centre with GB (Gilgit Baltistan). They have to compete with population of GB. However, it is also worth mentioning that the GB has its own seats as well. But the tribal don’t have their own seats in the federal government, which recruit the personnel through the FPSC (Federal Public Service Commission).

Furthermore, the bulge of youth in Pakistan is unprecedented, which comprises 65 per cent of the total population. However, the opportunities for the youth differ from province to province. The Pashtun youth is competing in the job market, as there are almost nonexistent industrial sector, therefore they are forced to wait for the government jobs.

Unfortunately, 1800 industrial units have stopped functioning owing to the non-availability of energy, despite the fact that KPK is the cheapest producer of energy. Almost 6000 MW electricity is being produced from hydal power, while the peak demand of the KPK is less than 2000 MW, but still there is no electricity for the households let alone the industrial sector. Here the principle of justice is at the fore front. The argument put forwarded as such as the population of Punjab is greater than the rest of the provinces, therefore, they should be facilitated first. The recent statement of the CM Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, in which he criticized the further expansion of gas to Punjab. He even remarked that it is a disastrous step and it will threaten the unity of federation.

After a brief digression, resuming our discourse about the compatibility of meritocracy and justice in Pakistan.  The graduates are recruited through the exams held by the testing services. The two agencies are important to mention over here. One is NTS (National Testing Services) and the other is KPPSC (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public service commission) in KPK. They are apparently trying to ensure the meritocracy. They are charging 300 to 800 rupees. The candidates are required to appear in the tests in the specified cities. Therefore, they have to travel for one test to distant areas. The lounging and travelling expense is almost 2000 to 3000 PKR. Most of the candidates cannot bear these expenses. Henceforth, they do not appear in these tests and sometimes don’t even apply for the posts. Now the question arises, is it justice to them that they are not being provided with the equal opportunities as the rest of the candidates. Henceforth, how it could be meritocracy then?

The concept of meritocracy is distorted as such in Pakistan that it goes against the principles of justice. It cannot be meritocracy when one candidate is unable to find an employment even though he has qualified the test and failed in the interview. For me meritocracy is, when a person with high intellectual caliber is placed at the higher place, but it doesn’t mean that the person of the so called lower intellect should not even have a decent job through which he can meet his both ends meet.

To cut the matter short, the distorted meritocracy is not a magic wand that will solve the problems of Pakistan. Only a fair distribution of resources can be the ultimate panacea for almost all the ills of our people. The Baloch youth have the grievances that can be summed up in one sentence, ‘’our resources are utilized somewhere else’’. Therefore they have taken up arms. The same is true for KPK and FATA. When KPK is given its control on resources, then the industries will again start functioning and moreover, the government should facilitate the establishment of new industries, thus the sense of deprivation will be curtailed. Otherwise, the Pashtun youth might opt for the same path- God Forbid- as that of Balochs.

By Noman Wazir

The writer is a socio-political analyst from FATA. He can be reached at


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