The Punjab interim government is currently ruling the province beyond its legal tenure and blatantly taking steps which do not come under the prerogative of an unelected government in any garb. Recently, Punjab interim rulers issued orders for the privatization of 1,000 public schools and brought important amendments in Teachers’ pension regulations that prompted stern resistance from teachers and administrative staff of public schools resulting in a halt of educational activities and closure of thousands of public schools across the province. Presently, tens of thousands of teachers are on the streets in protest of the Punjab government’s recent decision regarding the privatization of public schools.
After burning hard-earned taxpayers’ money in the renovation of shrines, maintenance of graveyards, offering of religious rituals and service of family and friends, Mr Naqvi and his cabal of Ministers have now turned to auctioning of provincial assets in the garb of institutional reforms and privatization. The interim leaders whose sole worth or ability is no more than their relationship with the previous rulers or intimacy with the establishment are currently engaged in asset making and money grabbing. Constitutionally, framing new codes and adopting legislation relating to long-term national or provincial policies is the sole role of politically elected rulers while the caretaker setup only performs the urgent administrative functions, oversees the law and order situation and assists the Election Commission of Pakistan in holding timely and transparent elections.
According to the reports, the Naqvi government has decided to hand over 1000 government-run schools to the private sector and Muslim Hands Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) as a pilot project while the rest of the public schools would be handed over to the private sector in the next phase. The reports suggest that the private sector and NGOs will charge Rs. 2000 per student and will run a lucrative education industry in the province. The Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) claims that the government is planning to privatise 10,000 schools and that it is targeting the schools with the best infrastructure, together with furniture, state-of-the-art laboratories and other equipment, doling them out to the private sector.
The PTU further accused the government of transferring the teachers of the privatised schools to far-flung areas and offering them early retirement, which not only demoralises the teachers but affects their performance. Currently, thousands of teachers across Punjab are resisting the caretaker government’s decision to privatise public schools and sabotage the pensions and other emoluments. In the current scenario, the caretaker setups in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have completed their constitutional term and are dragging their role far beyond their official obligation.
Instead of sticking to their narrow mandate, the interim rulers are muddling into important policy decisions and causing serious administrative and legal issues for the public as well as the future elected government in the province. Several previous governments had used this recipe by handing over some schools to NGOs but those projects failed and education standards were further eroded by such adventures in the past.
Realistically, the incumbent caretaker rulers in the centre as well as provinces are working well beyond their mandate in demonstration of self-assumed patriotism and fake nationalism. No caretaker leader who so ever is mandated with governance and policymaking like the democratically elected leaders who enjoyed public backing and the trust of the masses. Hence, the Punjab government must review its course and resist indulging in long-term policy matters that have long-lasting effects on the masses as well as the government system. In fact, there should be strict accountability of caretaker leaders for their actions and policies during their stay in public office so no self-claimed leader could ever abuse his authority and create problems for the masses in the future.