Meritocracy for Pakistan

One cannot implement democracy in a nation consisting largely of illiterate cretins and expect everything to be hunky-dory.

Am I being too crude? I’ll allow you to be the judge of that in light of the following statistics about Pakistani people:

-78% favor death for those who leave Islam

-80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery

-83% favor stoning adulterers.

(2009 study by Pew Research Center)

Behold, the state of the Pakistani people in the hands of whom rests the decision to elect our country’s leaders. In a country where 50.1% of the people do not know how to write their own names down on paper, excuse me for being wary of their decision-making capabilities.

Democracy is a brilliant idea for nations that have attained a certain level of public education – where an average citizen is capable of making a good, informed decision, if not the best possible decision. Pakistan, unfortunately, is not such a country.

At the same time I would never, never in a million years, advocate dictatorship. The term “enlightened moderation” for such a thing is naught but a deceptive euphemism, for there is no guarantee that the dictator would be the most “enlightened” person among us.

There is, however, another system that provides this guarantee..

Meritocracy is a system where individuals are selected for high positions on the basis of their merit, not popularity. For readers having trouble imagining how that would work, envisage a country that conducts examinations instead of elections.

What are the advantages of this system?

The country will no longer be held hostage by slick-tongued politicians who can easily manipulate the uneducated masses for their own agendas. The wisest and most capable men and women of the country will be able to find their rightful place in the government.

Furthermore, such a system will encourage citizens to seek the best quality education that they can afford. Enlightened Pakistanis who have been driven abroad due to the lack of opportunities in this country will like be attracted back with this system, since they’ll now have a greater chance at securing high-level government positions.

Who would conduct these examinations?

A special board shall be appointed for conducting these examinations, comprising of some of the country’s top professors in the fields of political science, economics, social studies etc. Candidates will be awarded positions in the administration depending on their merit. The top-scoring candidates will attain top positions in the government. There can be a series of exams, one for each tier in the administration.

Is it possible to cheat you way to the top in such examinations?

Needless to say, these examinations will be nothing like the crude matriculation exams you may be picturing. The exam papers will be meticulously prepared by a team of experts in fields pertaining to the applied positions, and every possible measure will be taken to prevent candidates from achieving high scores through unfair means.

It should be noted that while no system is perfectly immune to corruption, some are less prone to it than others. In democracy, the concern of an election being rigged is always there. In meritocracy, such trickery would be more difficult to achieve. The examinations for high-level government positions will likely receive live TV-coverage, with adequate invigilation. Security checks will be kept over examiners as well.

How does this system differ from dictatorship?

Firstly, the administrative personnel will be selected on basis of their merit, not through power or force.

Secondly, the selected leaders shall remain in power for a limited period of time before having to appear for a re-examination. And there’s a limit to the number of times a person can be awarded same high-level position (like in democracy, not more than two terms). This is different from dictatorship in which the dictator may hold his position indefinitely.

..and the public will have no say in matter?

That’s the idea, because majority isn’t always right. I feel perfectly okay with relinquishing my own vote if I know that the person making the decisions for this country is smarter than I am, and knows thing that I don’t.

However, meritocracy can be amalgamated with democracy as well! In such a case, the candidates for an election would be selected on the basis of examinations. The top-scoring candidates for the exams will then be allowed to announce their candidacy for elections.

Is meritocracy being implemented anywhere in the world today?

Yes. Singapore claims to be meritocratic country. This system is accredited for transforming an ignorable little nation, which it was back in 1965, into a shining jewel of a country in Southeast Asia. We know from this example that meritocracy is perfectly implementable as a system of governance.

Can such a system work in a country like Pakistan?

In my opinion, absolutely. Meritocracy works best in a place where only a small minority of the public is well-educated. This system ensures that in population consisting of a single educated person and 999 that are not, that single capable individual will be picked for the job. It is essentially social darwinism, and I’m all in favor of it!

    • Tanzeel
    • January 21st, 2011

    Impressed but

    Dil ko behlanay kay liye “Faraz” khayal acha hai…

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 22nd, 2011


    • Shirvanee
    • January 24th, 2011

    Illiteracy has got nothing to do with lack of political wisdom. Political education is a prerequisite for a good working democracy, this much I do understand, but then this education does not come without practice. Democracy is not a pure science that can be studied in a book. Pretty much like medicine, this is a practice, and thus requires a “house job” internship, where the students get to apply their knowledge practically, before a degree can be awarded to them. Thus, a nation like ours will have to undergo such an internship, no matter how long it may take. The concept of meritocracy is dependent on the idea that the people who understand the problems and their solutions are better place to rule. This completely ignores the fact that it is not your understanding, it is your interests that govern your decision making. The interests of the aristocracy (let us use the original name, given by Plato) cannot match that of the masses, no matter how honest they may be. I do not doubt the sincerity of Mr Jinnah, but seriously, how insightful he was when he could not see the bloodshed coming, what to talk of the fact that leaving India meant not benefiting from the socio-political advantages that society had as against the one that existed (still does) in Pakistan.

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 25th, 2011

    “This completely ignores the fact that it is not your understanding, it is your interests that govern your decision making.”

    That’s the case in just about every political structure in the world! Do you suppose the presidential candidates in democratic republics struggle for the seat with the intention of selflessly serving their countries only? Don’t you think they often have ulterior motives too?

    At least in a meritocratic system, a citizen can rest easy knowing that in national crises and other problems, our leaders are the people who are best suited to handle them.

    Besides, democracy is way over-rated. For the past whole year, President Zardari’s approval ratings have remained rock bottom. But he’s still not going anywhere until he has completed his term!

    Above all, this is not some experimental never-before-tried system. We know it works because we’ve seen it work. The examination for selecting a government official won’t be anything like a common university examination. It will consist of practical scenario-based questions that test the decision-making capabilities of each candidate. The candidate will be required to formulate plans in limited time, as well as back-up plans to deal with any unexpected contingencies.

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