By Saeed Qureshi
Throughout its existence since August 14, 1947; Pakistan has perennially remained in troubled waters. From the anarchy of the initial years to the interspersing of democratic stints, to military dictatorships, it has been overshadowed by a constant threat of disintegration as a state. This disintegration came off in 1971 when its eastern part then known as East Pakistan was truncated.
While East Pakistan changed her nomenclature to Bangladesh, the West wing came to be known as Pakistan. It was a cataclysmic event that happened in contemporary history when a state dismembered barely 24 years after its birth and independence from the colonial rule.
All these years, Pakistan earned strictures such as a failed state, a country not viable to stay on the world map and a nation moving towards eventual extinction or another disintegration a la East Pakistan. Pakistani society is infested with myriad chronic problems that range from poor social and utility services to unstable or dysfunctional institutions and sway of reactionary cutthroat religious militants. The competent, efficacious, egalitarian and public welfare oriented governance has ever remained elusive.
The mutual bickering and intolerance of the politicians kept the functioning of democratic form of government fragile and vulnerable to army intervention that always stepped in as an interim arrangement. Yet the army in due course the army would consolidate its rule as long as it could hang on. As such a stable democratic culture could not take roots.
The state governance and power wielding alternated between a non-representative military set up and the political power grabbers who were more concerned with their power and pelf than the national interests. In this pernicious musical chairs game the welfare of the people and development of the country was always kept on back burners.
Pakistan is in dire straits once again. The people favor a popularly elected system of government as was evidenced in the February 2008 general elections. Although these elections were more of a no confidence vote against the Musharraf quasi dictatorship, yet at the same time, it vividly demonstrated that the people of Pakistan were aware of the importance of a system of governance based on adult franchise contested between the political parties. At the moment when the incumbent government is managing to hold on to power, the country has been turned into a war zone by latter day Islamic warriors.
The PPP landed in trouble no sooner than it came into power. It is also trying to maintain and buoy up the rotten status quo. At the outset, it was locked in a political tussle with its coalition partners over restoration of deposed judges, choosing the president and the strategy to deal with the ballooning insurgency and upheaval in Northern areas and tribal zones of Pakistan.
Over all these five years, the PPP government with the help of the armed forces has failed to rein in the militants. Even if the militancy is finally nailed and wiped off in Pakistan, the price would be too high to imagine in terms of disintegration, loss of human lives and economic ramifications.
The incumbent coalition government has been embarking on the same track that was being traversed by Musharraf in combating the religious militants. Pakistan army has been braced for over a decade now against the radical religious bands to honor Pakistan’s commitment with the international community to annihilate terrorists. Pakistan has been reaffirming her role as an unflinching ally of US in latter’s war against Islamic extremists.
In such a bleak and murky scenario, the amelioration of the appalling socio economic problems of the people cannot be effectively addressed with the urgency and seriousness that it merits. The economy of Pakistan is in doldrums and seriously impaired to an alarming extent as evidenced by an all time high inflation and parity rate between dollar and Pak rupee. Apart from other countless maladies we have seen a whole panic stricken nation waits in long queues for a bag of flour.
A nation is decaying and dying on account of hunger, disease, deprivation and poverty and rotten civic life. All these afflictions fallen on a Muslim nation of 190 million still struggling for its survival are the consequences of the wrong doings of the leaders, lacking vision and sincerity. The motives and agendas of successive leaders have been to capture power and milk the national exchequer.
Every year loans of billions of rupees are so conveniently written off. These loans are granted to robber barons whose bellies and bank accounts are already bulging like swelling balloons. There is least accountability for rapacious robbing of the national wealth which must be spent on people’s welfare and country’s advancement.
Pakistan is in emergent need of a new revolutionary social contract that should encompass radical remedial changes in every domain and dimension of our society. It should start from abolition of feudalism and Sardari system to abundant and adequate availability of civic facilities namely electricity, water, transportation, good roads, railways, jobs etc. Social and legal justice should be liberated from the onslaughts of the pressure groups and influential individuals.
There is an appalling mess everywhere that instead of diminishing is accentuating. Democracy is the finest system of government provided it can ensure social justice and equality of opportunities and basic services. We need dedicated, visionary, and honest leadership that can put Pakistan on the way to economic and institutional stability, as we witness in the Western countries.
It all depends upon the quality, sincerity, and caliber of the leaders whether they make or break a nation. We in Pakistani have been having gangsters, thugs, custodians and savior of an exploitative system with such despicable manifestations as feudalism, elitism, untouchable military and civil bureaucracy and so on.
It is therefore; absolutely imperative that Pakistan’s socio- economic and political landscape must be completely reoriented and refurbished. The status quo must be quashed, and new vigorous radical and revolutionary agenda should be evolved. A new social contract must be written that brings about structural and institutional changes in all spheres of society.
The change in attitudes, social behaviors, the modernization of civic facilities and social services should be accorded the utmost and top priority to ensure a decent living. The Pakistan nation is mired in a primitive mode of life with rampant superstitions, myths of mystical healings and fanciful stories of the past beguiling the people to remain mentally backward.
Pakistan is stuck in a morass of abysmal degradations of all kinds: open sewage lanes, cattle stalking, pollution of smoke and noise, human and animal excretion blanketing the entire country, pervading stink in the air, traffic madness and overstuffed public vehicles, life threatening adulteration of food and medicines, vermin infested water, power cuts et el. The officialdom and the departmental network are corrupt, too ill equipped, too poorly financed and too outdated to take the bull of these stupendous problems by horn.
Here are a few broad outlines of a social contract or an agenda that can be instrumental in initiating the much and long coveted transformation in Pakistan. As already stated only a leadership that is genuinely sincere and dedicated to making Pakistan a modern, progressive, prosperous, democratic and egalitarian state can enforce it. There might not be immediate and forthcoming results but a direction and course would be set in motion and the first momentous steps could gradually change the whole dismal scenario into the resplendent one with hope and a will to move forward.
- The galloping growth of population should be restrained both by persuasion and official caveats. Two children recipe is certainly desirable and ought to be made binding.
- For devolution of powers, rapid and optimum progress, Pakistan needs to have more provinces. The existing administrative divisions should be changed into province. Besides creating more provinces out of existing four provinces, the FATA, Kashmir and Northern Regions should also be designated as provinces with maximum autonomy, permissible under the constitution.
- The constitution should be re-written with necessary additions and subtractions. All those caveats should be expunged that bar Pakistan from being a true federation, a genuine democracy and modern polity. The present government has introduced a few meaningful amendments in the constitution but more are needed such as abolition of feudalism and separating religion and state.
- While the Feudalism, Sardari and clannish over-lordship in all shades must at once be abolished, the taken over lands should be effectively and veritably distributed among landless peasants. People should be freed and liberated from the centuries old vestiges of land-based fiefdoms and indigenous colonialism by taking away the privileged positions and royal status of super land lords against their tillers and bonded labor. The divisions and discriminations of being high and low between citizens should be replaced with equality for all. This is what our religion warrants and this is what a modern civil society demands.
- The pivotal role of judiciary must be ensured and strengthened at all costs by creating an independent judicial system consisting of intrepid, clean, conscientious and upright individuals who cannot be influenced by any trickery of bribe, pressure, political influence or similar other questionable and dirty means. All court fees should be abolished. The Accountability courts should form part of the judicial system. Pakistan can take a cue from other modern societies for establishing a strong and transparent judiciary.
- The entire civic and municipal system should be completely revamped .The civic problems are directly related to the people’s lives and their mental and social awareness. People are desperate to have their pressing and local irritants such as orderly traffic, trash collection, encroachment and cattle free footpaths, streets and roads to be addressed effectively and regularly. For these fundamental reforms the “City and County” system of local governance should be adopted whose blueprints can be borrowed from the United States or any western society.
It would be an epic milestone if the people in the coming elections vote for the candidates and parties that relatively have a clean record and a fair name in the public service. If the same chronically corrupt leaders and highway robbers return to the assemblies, Pakistanis will forfeit a unique chance for a big leap forward and a rare choice for a better future, although physically it may still remain on the world map.
The esteemed readers are welcome to add their input to these measures. The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat