21 July, 2016
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 as well as 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 in due course the army would consolidate its hold on power 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.
The incumbent PMLN government has been embarking on the same track that was being traversed by Musharraf and later by the PPP dispensation 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 has always been 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 that a whole panic stricken nation waits in
long queues for a bag of flour or else buy food items at an exorbitant price. The other commodities are so expensive as to reach out of the poor sections of society to buy.
A nation is decaying and dying on account of hunger, disease, deprivation, poverty adulteration lawlessness, and rotten civic life. All these afflictions have fallen on a Muslim nation of 200 million still struggling for its survival. These distortions 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 conveniently written off. These loans are granted to robber barons whose bellies and bank accounts are already bulging like swelling balloons. There is the least accountability for rapacious robbing of the national wealth which must be spent on people’s welfare and country’s advancement. Panama Leaks speak volumes the way the ill-gotten wealth of this poor country has been dumped abroad by top notches in politics, business and in service.
Pakistan is in emergent need of a new revolutionary social contract that should encompass radical remedial changes in every domain and discipline 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 and bribery.
There is an appalling mess all over in Pakistan 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 and civic galore, 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 and worthwhile quality of life of the citizens. The Pakistan nation is mired in a primitive mode of life with rampant superstitions, myths of mystical healings, graves and tombs worshipping, power of the voodoos and fanciful stories of the past beguiling the people to remain mentally backward.
Pakistan is stuck up 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, narrow roads, heaps of rotting garbage, 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 trained, too myopic, too ill equipped, too poorly financed and too outdated to take the bull of these stupendous challenges 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 civically neat, environmentally modern and politically 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.
1. The galloping growth of population must be restrained both by persuasion and official caveats. Two children recipe is certainly desirable and ought to be made binding.
2. 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.
3. 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. During the past few years a few meaningful amendments have been injected in the constitution but more are needed such as abolition of feudalism and separating religion and state.
4. 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.
5. 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. The deposit of court and other fees through stamp papers (in local term it is called Ashtam) and should be deposited in banks. 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 ramshackle and old court buildings need to be redesigned as most of the existing edifices look like cattle stables. These have mostly broken furniture and lack heating or air-conditioning facilities. The judges and their staff is exposed to violence and intrusion. In the open place one can see all around make shift cabins of stamp paper venders, advocates and their agents. If someone wants I can send the design of one of the district or county court buildings in Texas to see a sea difference between those in Pakistan and here in the United States.
6. 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 and quality of life. People are desperate to have their pressing and local and civic issues such as orderly traffic, trash collection, encroachment and cattle free footpaths, streets and roads etc.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 and good governance, although physically it may still remain on the world map.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat. You can also read this and other articles on my blog www.uprightopinion.com
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