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Apr 27, 2016
Recently through a news item the nation learnt that the Punjab Ombudsman received 4,000 complaints in a month which comes to 48,000 plus minus at an average a year. According to the ombudsman, it is reflective of increasing confidence of the citizens on his Office.

2. Deputy Commissioner Faisalabad the other day said that 45,080 complaints against different Departments of the District were received through the Citizens Postal. This number of 45,000 belongs only to one District Faisalabad whereas the Punjab Ombudsman received, if calculated, 50,000 complaints from whole of the province. For a layman it is tilting of the common man more towards the Citizens Portal losing confidence on the ombudsman. First time in second half of 1990s I visited Sindh Ombudsman Secretariat. In a big room sat on chairs some 40 plus visitors while in a corner a young gentleman entertained them one by one. After some 4-5 years when I visited again, that reception room had gone and secretariat looked like a desert. I enquired about it from the same officer who today is serving in judiciary in a very senior position. His reply was that when people knew today from this door nothing was to be delivered, why would then they come visit on travel expense. About three years back I passed through the Sindh Ombudsman Secretariat (incidentally its construction was done by my late brother-in-law). It looked like a ghost house due to dust and vehicular smoke layers over layers gathered on the building. It suggested clearly when the inhabitants had no interest for a normal cleanliness of the place where they sit, in that atmosphere what real productive work they would be doing except mainly producing hefty nice offset printed annual reports.

3. A few months back the Federal Ombudsman stating that there was a surge in complaints crossing 100,000, desired us to believe it was a sign of growing confidence of people on his office. Now a week back this figure has reached to 130,000 complaints. Why should this surge not be interpreted as almost complete failure of his office that even after 35 years of his establishment, his office is unable to mend the “brave” functionaries otherwise complaints should had drastically come down during this long period. Take for an example; right from beginning Karachi Electric is on top of the list against which people have complaints. Had there been any real impact or effect of existence of the Federal Ombudsman, these repeat type complaints must had come down. About five years back through a press conference the Federal Ombudsman in Karachi tried to make us happy that utilities would henceforth issue bills with last date of payment by end first week of new month when people had their salaries. Till today Karachi Electric is issuing bills with date of payment as 28-29-30 of current month the foreign investor nakedly showing contempt to the ombudsman of the land. Ex-President Asif Ali Zardari well narrated this when showing his concern to the Assembly he observed the Federal Ombudsman had become ineffective.

4. On the other hand recently Prime Minister’s Citizen Portal released a huge number of complaints received and resolved claiming not just success of the Portal but increasing confidence on PM and his relief mechanism through his Portal. This old man from manual typewriter generation is puzzled if claims of all our these different Ombudsmen on which nation is spending huge are correct, then was the PM made in duplicating and establishing Citizens Portal?

5. An ombudsman is supposed to take note of the cause arising a complaint, rectify it and admonish the functionaries responsible and most importantly to streamline that same cause of concern was not committed to any other citizen. This increasing number of complaints is taken by the Punjab Ombudsman or for that purpose by any other type of ombudsman including Federal Ombudsman as increased “confidence on the ombudsman” whereas this old man having 50 plus ears rich office experience both at home and abroad, based on his life experience, interprets it complete failure of the Ombudsman concerned in making any remotest effect of its presence and in making any dent on our erring functionaries. Those whom God has given visionary eyes, see no visible positive impact of the presence of a lot of costly ombudsmen prevailing on earth. The self speaking proof of it is from only one single example. 1586 officials are being scrutinized and 263 issued warning letters in the Punjab Government for their incompetency and negligence including their lethargically dropping out public complaints. In the Cabinet briefing on the issue the words “increase in complaints” has been used. There needs no other words to interpret this except that it is negating what the Punjab Government’s voluminous fine bound paper worth annual reports claim. If contents of those annual reports are to be believed, then Citizens Portal’s claim of growing complaints and DC Faisalabad’s claim warnings 263 officers is incorrect. If DC is correct then a very logical question arises that these 263 officers remained working within the jurisdiction of the Punjab Ombudsman, people of district had complaints, these officers were doing acts of mal administration, yet then the Punjab Ombudsman did not act in the right manner. DC/Citizens Portal had to act whereas the Annual Reports of the Punjab Ombudsman were since years over years picturing “سب اچھا ہے”?

6. This old man sure has somewhere in his old junk two old press cuttings. The first one is a news item taken from the newspaper morning June 30 reading that CBR (FBR) was short of so and so much from the target revenue collection. The 30th June is a banking holiday. The second cutting is of 01st July morning reading that CBR has surpassed its target by so and so millions. The true fact is since early 1990s this nation is being fed and is alive on figure work and for the people worth of their salt figure work is the only thing to be achieved and delivered.

7. If one goes by the wordings of different statements time to time, press conferences, interviews or reports from our Ombudsmen, it would be observed generally that the emphasis would be on number of “reliefs” provided whereas an ombudsman is not just to provide individual relief but to “diagnose and put the derailed system back on track”. Had the diagnosis been done and system put back on track, then million worth question is why there are increasing number of complaints against the same very functionaries who previously are believed having been put back on track. On the earth, with our naked eyes, we see constantly increasing acts of mal-administration. Daily evening talk shows are self barking examples. Increasing corruption from millions to billions is only because there exists unchecked acts of mal administration. Late Asghar Khan today appears rightly then said that there was a large army in the Ombudsman office either nothing or very little to do and late K.H. Khursheed observed that the establishment of ombudsman had increased the rate of corruption.

8. Mid 1990s when still this old man had some slight hopes from the ombudsman system, he visited the exclusively famous Pioneer Book Depot dealing with law publications and stationary situate on M.A. Jinnah Road in Karachi in front of Dow Medical University. I asked for a copy of the latest annual report of the ombudsman which had a price tag of Rs. 100/-. Earlier I have wasted my time in search of that to different places including Government Printing Press Karachi. I never forgot the wording of the old age owner of the Book Depot who looked at me laughingly adding no one blocks and waste money on stocking such publications.

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