Pakistan In A Perpetual State Of Turmoil: Causes And Cures – OpEd


Pakistan has seldom been as polarized and divided on political, ethnic lines as we find it today.

Despite its chequered political and economic history, the recent crisis on both political and economic fronts may have begun after Imran Khan in 2010 found the floor with the blatant help of military establishment, to pitch his party as the only ship to sail in Pakistan’s poverty, illiteracy ridden society corruption-laden governance and unhinged political waters. Since then PAKISTAN seems constant poised on a knife-edge, the grim reality is that we are at a point where militancy has once again start raging out of control, if not tackled immediately.

Combined with the domestic challenges confronting Pakistan — a divided polity and an economy in worst crisis — that would pitch us into a predicament extremely difficult to manage. In the latest episode of an intensifying series of militant attacks in the country.

Unluckily the hopes pinned with regime change too with sweet well of king makers are losing ground because of status quo in all fronts particularly the country is gripped by bed governance, high cost of living and the rulers are engaged in looking for self-interests rather than public ease.

Main reasons of bad governance

Governance crises emerge in the shape of mismanaging all the affairs relating to the public. Governance crises are there when the economy is not working well; when there is political turmoil, poor accountability, lack of transparency, populism, cult politics and disturbed civil-military relations over the past several decades have proved inimical to the democratic health of the country. From economy to politics and from society to religion, all issues have had their deep roots.

Pakistan has been struggling with its economy since its inception. Economics was largely sacrificed for traditional and tangible security, which got the main seat on the priorities list. Such long-standing ignorance and deliberately putting economic development on the back seat have affected the growth and development of the economy. The economy has been trapped in a vicious cycle of foreign and internal debt which has choked off by trade deficits; the fastest depleting forex and the disturbing current account regime. It is coming across as a very imbalanced fiscal discipline and mounting circular debts. The burden of increasing interest on foreign debts, climate change, corruption, and lack of accountability is doomed to be unbearable.

Further Service delivery is one of the key indicators of good governance. In fact, the government, via its administration, has a duty to properly deliver on public matters. Until and unless the institutions are inclusive and open to public participation, the government-cum-administration is doomed to fall, as anticipated by the famous write-up on political economy and comparative politics, “Why Nations Fail.” The exclusive nature of the state’s key institutions serves the few at the cost of all. The structural analysis of institutional set-up in Pakistan clearly unfolds the exclusive nature of key institutions particularly Judiciary, executive legislative and establishment as a whole. They openly serve the elite and completely exclude people therefore Pakistan has performed poorly on almost all key services, ranging from socioeconomic to politics.

Leadership deficit coupled with the lack of political will is largely agreed to be the root cause of all the challenges Pakistan is coming across right now. Major problems remain unresolved due to the absence of political will. Politics in Pakistan is power-oriented and parochial; revolving around the fulfilment of ruling clubs’ personal agendas at the cost of the public interests. The Pakistani version of politics depicts mud-slinging, name-calling and dirty politics. 

Elite capture-a catastrophe

Every educated citizen must read novel namely “The Famished Road”, written by famous Nigerian-British writer Ben Okri, in which two characters are talking to each other: “Do you understand what mice are saying? No, can you talk to them? No, but I can kill them… because their stomach is never full, they are like corrupt politicians, imperialists and rich people… They eat people’s things and devour whatever comes in front of them and one day when they are very hungry, they eat us too.”

Today, the state of Pakistan presents a perfect example of elite capture, where big and powerful people have occupied all resources; they are eating everything, and their hunger has turned into ‘the famished road’. These people will now turn to us and eat us all one day. Our bones will be scattered in the streets and highways because they could not be eaten.

Unfortunately, we have been held hostage by those who only think from their stomach, and no one is visible to them except themselves,  where humanity has been completely defeated by the anti-human and corrupt colonial mentality. The people of Pakistan have become helpless and hollow. They have accepted poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease as their destiny. We see complete silence all around because the dead never speaks or cries.

Wonder why have nations —well, so many of them— failed? It’s because the people there stopped dreaming and were rendered hopeless; and it’s when social injustice completely took over the societies, all avenues of a peaceful change were blocked, and all state resources, power and authority was concentrated in the hands of a few called elite class.

Our name now figures in the list of failed nations.

The main justification for the existence of any state is people’s welfare i.e. promoting prosperity, ensuring freedom, educating, empowering the masses and trying to reduce their sufferings. People in Pakistan are treated like in the ancient Greek states about 2500 years ago, were governed by ancient customs and traditions. It was a time when people did not even think about what social and political laws are. Rulers used to rule in a dictatorial manner according to their needs and wisdom, and the subjects were forced to live a social life as per their orders.!

Our democratic credentials are bleak. Democratic behavior and norms have never been allowed to flourish in Pakistan since beginning. Why is that so? The answer lies in the historical, social, political and strategic dynamics of the country. Pakistan, on its part, has flirted with democratic experiences.

In the country’s relatively short history of over 75 years, there have been four direct military interventions/rules. The net result is, the politicians blame the establishment while the establishment has a strong case based on perceptions and realities of a huge trust deficit in politicians’ accounts in addition to alleged incredible stories of corruption and abuse of power.  The nation, in the meanwhile, has become a laughing stock particularly when on Wednesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah revealed that the former ISI chief Faiz Hameed along with his brother, is being investigated for corruption. It is rare for probes to be conducted into allegations against senior military officials accumulating assets beyond their means and Ms. Mariam Nawaz’s demand for Gen Hameed to be court-martialed. Furthermore, accumulation of wealth through unfair means by former Army Chief and other senior Army officers have become talk of the streets.

On the other hand, a country with over 220 million population, mostly youth, bestowed with fertile lands and abundant natural resources and a huge costal belt, and located at the crossroads of a most strategic area of the world, unfortunately no more enjoys much respect in the comity of nations. These all are self-inflicted deep wounds, which keep bleeding the image of the country in the comity of the nations.

The bleak scenario emerged so far agitate everyone’s minds for two questions: where did we go wrong? And are there any chances to regain lost glory? Interestingly, everyone has a ready —but not necessarily correct— answer to these two questions. However, the two main parties to the issue are the establishment and politicians. We are country with a written constitution that is the result of a consensus within the nation and which in principle recognizes that the authority of the state is to be exercised by the chosen representatives ‘as a sacred trust’. Power, however, is seldom exercised as a trust here because power lies in the hands of and exercised by the elite class who is less than two percent of the population. The vast majority throughout Pakistan lives a miserable life in almost slum-like conditions. While the elite —civilian, military otherwise— live a covetous life. A system monopolized by the elite, without reference to the people, weakens the state. It has led to personalized and non-institutionalized governance, degrading the integrity of decision-making. 

Excessive concern with security has skewed national resources, to the neglect of the economy and human development. 

We are a country full of contradictions, one in which no segment of society is free from taint. All institutions are dysfunctional and counterproductive for the people. There is complete breakdown of political, administrative, judicial and other institutions. The irony is that the establishment is lacking comprehension to understand the gravity of the situation and presents the change of players is their only response.

No nation can live in isolation. The biggest source of the wealth of a nation is its trade with other nations particularly with neighboring countries but we are reluctant to do so due to longstanding dispute over Kashmir with India and finding strategic depth in Afghanistan. Therefore, the economy of the state has become a game of figures. The state actually runs on donations, loans and charities. Despite several opportunities such as amnesty schemes, an undocumented and parallel illegal economy runs in this country right under the noses of everyone. The ruling elites both civil and military continue living beyond their means without accounting for their wealth. While for the past seven decades, laws and institutions have been specifically created for the eradication of corruption, it has embarrassingly increasingly increased. 

Our education system is so badly set up that both public and private education institutions from primary to higher level are complete failure. people who struggle to send their kids to middle or low-income schools have no chance at all for achieving the kind of success that education should give every child everywhere. The elite schools namely Aitchison college lahore, Grammar School Karachi, Beacon And Lahore grammar schools have been set up only to educate and prepare the children of elite class to run the country . Further Feudalism supported by religious institutions has created self-sustaining disparities in society by resisting education, women’s rights and socioeconomic emancipation. This has excluded large segments of the population from productive contribution to national development.

Way out/ Cures

First and foremost, the message for Pakistan is clear: do course correction or face consequences. It has to change quickly and that is to break from the past. End to power struggle between Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Pakistan must stop harbouring a massive insecurity complex. Reconsider the current distribution of power. Develop political consensus and the political parties must unite first to respect and follow the democratic principles in its institutional structure. Close the doors of hybrid democracy or partial martial law. Put their head together for new social contract. Pakistan needs a legitimate political authority through free and fair elections to redirect our national institutions towards the Welfare of the masses. The elite structure must be dismantled and replaced by principles of equity, fairness and justice. 

This is only possible when politicians make the welfare of the people their priority and respect for the constitution, parliamentary norms their common denominator. confine all institutions to work with in constitutional boundaries. Country needs dramatic infrastructure changes and improvements in governance particularly in judiciary, criminal justice system and financial institutions to Open up trade with neighbors, Pakistan needs to prioritize investment in agriculture and livestock research and development, modernization of farming techniques, and infrastructure development, including better irrigation systems, transportation, and storage facilities.

We must reimagine Pakistan based on inclusiveness, enlightened moderation, non discriminative, corruption free, equal opportunities for all. The collective sense of nationalism built on forgiveness and rejuvenation is the only route to existence The rest will only invite bloodshed and further decadence

Sher Khan Bazai,The writer is retired civil servant as former secretary education Baluchistan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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